Almanac Rugby League – 2020 State of Origin, Game 2: Simply Blue



Sean Mortell has catholic tastes in sport and has a good eye and feel for rugby league. He continues his coverage of the 2020 State of Origin series with this take on Game 2 played last night in Sydney.


In a winding three game series, there’s always something unique about Game Two of State of Origin. After a frenetic opening where players collide and the intensity reaches manic levels, Game Two presents a new spin. It’s utterly territorial and personal.


It all starts with the blue-cad ANZ Stadium. Regardless of the crowd capacity limits enforced, the State of New South Wales allows enough fans in to create the special feel. Instead of other sports that boast brutal sound as the pinnacle of their atmosphere, for the Blues in Origin footy it is the colour. The sky-blue array of wigs and jerseys takes a dash of breath away as cameras pan over it. For players, one could only imagine it either fills them with pride or dread. The words and supporting may be torrid for the Maroons, but it has all been classically conditioned to the light blue that fills ANZ Stadium and highlights there’ll be no shred of support for the men from the north.


Only the best of sides in rare form can push past this. Even when dominating Origin for over a decade, those great Queensland sides often struggled to keep the baying crowd at a distance and ignore the swarm of wigs. Despite coming up against an all-conquering team, the home side would always find a way to lift – only the best of efforts gave the Maroons a 3-0 drubbing. It became its own goal for the Maroons; not just to win, but to go one further and snatch the NSW home game. Now, the tidal wave of Blues supporters means Maroons go in hoping to cause a miracle.


These young Queenslanders set out on the same path. Buoyed by a shock second half comeback in Adelaide, they believed they could continue the good feeling and send NSW into retreat. An early score does the trick and ANZ Stadium, already with reduced attendees, falls into a lull. There’s no Munster, but the momentum means the Maroons know how to withstand some pressure and produce gritty plays. But their newfound fortitude is about to be sorely tested.


Following a week of criticism, the Blues were champing at the bit. If they needed another reason to fire themselves up, conceding the first score did exactly that. In the next half an hour, NSW unleashed their full array of tricks to pile on the pain. Addo-Carr was sensational on the wing, while Cleary’s kicking and genius over the ground ensured Queensland’s poor tactical errors were often exploited without a shred of guilt. Isaah Yeo came off the bench and dominated, adding sparkling touches to plays that often left Blues streaking out wide to slam down tries. By halftime the score had flipped, and NSW held a comfortable lead.


But Game One proved the Blues couldn’t rely on flashy star power to win games. Under Wayne Bennett, the Maroons are testy and play in spite. Instead of caving in, they dig in their heels and try to fight past their underdog tag. But ANZ Stadium is far different to the Adelaide Oval when it comes to Origin. No matter what they tried, the blue wigs jeered and cheered. Constant reminders of their inept skill levels flowed. Every time a Maroon looked up in despair, he met thousands of eyes surrounded by blue in every sense of the word. It’s the beauty of what NSW brings to Origin footy. It’s what made the Maroons cave in and accept the drubbing.


In the end, it was exactly that. Nothing Queensland did went right – nerves continued into the final minutes where fumbles exacerbated the revelling Blues’ fans. NSW romped home to a big win, and snatched all momentum out of the incredulous young Maroons’ hands heading into next week’s decider. It is a completely unique situation; but NSW’s home crowd in Origin football is sizeable enough to change the complexion of a series. Here, they might have just done so, guiding their boys onto the right course for the third straight year.


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  1. Sean, I missed the game last night (don’t ask!) but at least my tip was on the mark – ‘NSW at home comfortably’. The early loss of Munster was massive for the Maroons but they were well and truly out-gunned for most of the night by the sounds of it.

    I like your focus on the crowd. 10 years ago I attended an Origin match at ANZ Stadium and it was indeed a sea of blue with just one pocket of maroon at one end. Quite intimidating. Fortunately, on that occasion, the Maroons got up to complete what was their most recent series clean-sweep.

    We’ll learn a bit more about both teams next week when NSW have to be able to produce in front of a raucous Lang Park crowd with hardly a shade of blue in sight.

  2. I’ve attended 3 Origin matches: one at Lang Park/Suncorp Stadium and two at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. Interestingly, the visiting team won each time.

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