Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin I: A cracker!

Almanac Rugby League: State of Origin I – Queensland v New South Wales


Belushi’s bar in Borough High Street, London has undergone something of a transformation since my last visit three years ago. What was a bit of a dive called ‘The Dugout’ has been transformed into an industrial chic, more open and airy space, and it was there that at least a couple of hundred, mostly Australian, rugby league lovers descended today to take in State of Origin I. They seemed about evenly divided in their loyalties. Great to see an old Western Suburbs Magpies jersey on show!


I don’t know what the media has been saying at home about Origin and it’s ongoing relevance but what I watched today suggested to me that the concept and its place in the code is as strong as ever. What a cracker of a game!


After Game III in 2018, I suggested that the coming years will provide exciting games based around new players of immense talent with wins and losses fairly evenly shared. Throw in the ongoing intensity of the contests and the concept, which reaches its fortieth anniversary this year, seems very much alive and well to me.


A word about the referees to start: the on-field guys had a very good night with little to argue about by either side. They put their whistles away for the most part and let the players sort it out – that’s the way it should be. Not so the video guys whose howler in denying Napa was a travesty.


There’s a theory that says that good sides overcome adversity and find a way to win; there’s another theory that says that defence wins matches; yet another says that there’s a fine line between winning and losing, especially at this level. All three notions gained further evidence to support them tonight.


Queensland overcame the joint adversity of the Napa farce as well as their own bumbling (think Chambers and Oates) to continue to create opportunities in the second half to run in three successive tries. Although NSW threw everything at the Maroons in the first half, the defence conceded only one try; for an extended period midway through the second half, the Queensland defence attacked NSW in their own quarter and imposed a strong field position; and then, in the final frantic moments, the Maroons kept their heads and their line to the extent that the Blues could not find the one last play to snatch a win. The fine line was the width of the sideline, the breadth of a Munster feint and side-step, the courage of a Ponga tackle on a rampant Mitchell.


Queensland should take a lot of heart from this game. They won in spite of their errors, they created far more opportunities, they had more left in the tank at the end of the game, they found a way to contain Tedesco (even though he was among the best for NSW), and they nullified Mitchell. Now all they have to do is work out how to shut down Damien Cook who has taken the No. 9 role to a whole new level. And they found a long term future in Ponga, Arrow, Fifita and Ofahengaue. Dane Gagai in one mean hombre, made of whatever it is that is the essence of Origin, and Munster must be good because the Blues fans hate him with a passion!


NSW has no need to panic. Their debutants did well enough and deserve another chance, although Walker is likely to make way for a fit Keary. Cameron Murray looked good and should keep Victor Radley at bay for now. Was Cordner fit? Can Mitchell play so poorly again? We’re there a few old legs in the last quarter of the game?


Roll on Perth!



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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.


  1. Brilliant exhibition of rugby league. A classic in my view. Huge physical contest which left the forwards physically challenged and created space for both sides. The Maroons got on top of the up-front contest and suddenly the paddock opened up.

    If you want to see the essence of rugby league, check out NSW’s set of six at the 56 minute mark. The Queensland defence is so powerful.

    Safe travels IJH.

  2. Great game. I’m happy!

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