Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin: Brilliant

If you were in any doubt about sport as the new religion, the fervour for which is deeply felt and passionately expressed, all you needed to do was involve yourself in the divine State of Origin match last night. You couldn’t help but feel it – even from your lounge room.

It was like the Catholic mass.

The music has moved away from the bland, sentimental, key-changing inspirers to the orchestra and its nod to classical numbers in the style which was mandatory when God was entrenched in the Heavens and the masters composed ad maiorem Dei gloriam.


The colour. Liturgical maroon and liturgical blue, worn as vestments over the clothes of the everyday. Special Origin garb, of spiritual importance, signifying (without any shame and with no hint of irony) a genuine feeling of allegiance and commitment.


And the smells: the chip and dim sim trucks, spilled beer, and augmented by gunpowder, for what are fireworks but the priestly swing of the (ginormous) incensory.


The ritual completed, the sides went at it, Queensland heavy favourites, although the bookies had kept their price long enough to prise open the wallet.


The locals started well, Darius Boyd scoring the first try, before the Blues settled and took control. The champions’ cause was not helped by Cooper Cronk’s broken arm, although they had the talented Daley Cherry-Evans to take his place. The pressure was on the young man and he took a risk-free approach while he settled in – if you can ever settle in at this level.


New South fought back. Jarryd Hayne looked like he could be the difference with explosive acceleration, slippery evasion, and bursting pace. After Brett Morris scored (and popped his shoulder, which proved to be a mere sub-flesh wound) Hayne wriggled over and the Maroons were genuinely rattled.


The feeling at half-time was that Queensland would struggle to get back into the game, and so it was in the early minutes of the second half.


But then the whole spirit of Origin descended on old Lang Park and the crowd could tell. They were part of it; contributed to it. It was like Cam Smith turned to his pack and said, “Now!”


It wreaked of desperation: a ten-minute roll of the dice before succumbing. The aggression in the defence turned the minds of all. There were three and four in driving tackles which rattled the Blues. Then Boyd scored again. 12-8 to the Blues.


Surely the Queenslanders would tire. How could they continue to find the reserves to maintain the intensity? But, this is Origin, this is the cathedral, and the calling is the highest. They found and continued to find, with the forwards pounding up field to be met with holding defence; Thurston and Cherry-Evans probing, running at the line, throwing cut-out passes to second-man plays, being as creative as Scott and Myles were being brutish.


They just kept at it, controlling the ball. Te’o, relatively fresh (for a few moments at least) had made a difference, and was making a difference, the Blues were about to crack.

But the boys from south of the Tweed were phenomenal. Morris held Boyd up, by some miracle of biomechanics, broad shoulders and fat tummies. The forwards absorbed the thrusts, the backs defended with intelligence and initiative.


Still Queensland came. Surely it was a matter of time. It got down to the last minute – Queensland had a set at them. But they had to pause for time-off. (Was it a penalty?) For minutes Loz Daley and crew had been pacing the coaches’ box drawn into the contest with a deeply satisfying un-professionalism. This was raw emotion. And tension will change us all.


The Maroons went left and some of the greatest attackers of all time – Thurston, Slater, Inglis – could not find the way through. The Blues defence drifted beautifully with the play and I reckon 11 of the 13 were stacks-on-the defeated Queenslander who happened to finish with the ball. (Slater?)


They were all shaking hands as Melbourne Channel 9 ended the coverage to go to The Footy Show. I assume Jarryd Hayne was man-of-the-match. There was one moment in the second half when, with his boys about to hit the canvas, Hayne took off like the prairie’s fastest buffalo and bought them a few minutes of reprieve. It was that sort of match.


Slow to get going, this Origin match became (another) classic. Transcendent. Befitting a mass scheduled for 8.20 on a Wednesday night.


Afterwards, Cam Smith should have stood at the gate to greet every single patron as they left.



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – magnificent report. I’ll be attending a Gregorian Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral in early July. I’ll keep this report in mind as I try to make sense of the chanting and incense.

  2. David Zampatti says

    A ballad of bristle and gristle, torn grass and smeared blood. More sheer manliness in eighty minutes than in the entire history of the Coupe du Monde.

  3. Greg Mallory says

    good article

  4. Peter Schumacher says

    It makes Rule’s look too soft in comparison.

  5. Rod Oaten says

    What a fantastic game. I wasn’t barracking for either side but I couldn’t sit down and watch the last ten minutes, the old heart was racing I was a bloody nervous wreck. Raw courage and guts by the container load, both sides were magnificent. Role on game two.

  6. Josh Hunt out. Jarryd Hayne in. How would he be at full back for the Cats?

  7. “It was like a Catholic Mass.”

    That’ll get me watching the next one…

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    I watched the first 5 mins and last 20. It’s how I watch NRL. I’m sorry, but I just can’t warm to the sport. Too simple, basic. Run, bash, fall over. Do it again. But what do I know, I haven’t been brought up on it. If I had and knew the sport better, I’m sure I’d see more. And maybe even love it like i do footy. Well, maybe. I liked Joey’s analysis pre=game. Brought a depth and and awareness i hadn’t seen before. My ignorant eyes did notice QLD fail to take two out wide opportunities in the finals minutes. Slater tried to be the hero in the last minute by turning back inside.

    With NRl, unfortunately, I think we have to suspend belief more than any other sport in Aust. Surely PEDs rampant. Too many of the players are clones and the brutality, and the players’ ability to endure it, is breathtaking. Are administrators serious about ridding the sport of drugs? Maybe if they were found at Melbourne Storm. What’s happening at Cronulla? Could it be a case of take the physicality out of the game and you take away its most attractive characteristic? So let’s keep our heads in the sand?

  9. DBalassone says

    I tuned in after the missus finished watching ‘Offspring’ and found the climax enthralling. Could not believe the the noise. I reckon it was more like Planet Shakers than a Catholic mass.

  10. JTH,

    Apropo and vis a vis my comment to your previous post re Queensland origin greatness where I indicated that the toads had it all over the roaches in commitment and the x factor- you called it the way of life. I am glad you did because as sure as the proverbial sticking to blanket they weren’t playing for queensland governance. I digress. I have talked to few blokes in and around the NSW game after they sobered up and they advise the following. the roaches nicked the queensland motor and mojo. snuck in and nicked it put it in stick figures and gus gould wrote a churchillian ( for him anyway) piece that hit the spot. I have not seen a nsw team talk about having nothing left in the tank ie jarryd hayne for many a year. yes it was a beautiful tactical move. steal their mojo/modus operandi.
    as NSW is adept at trying to maximising returns from its assets however they are acquired, they quickly sold said mojo/modus operandi on to the swans. sorry JT but that swans forward line is more powerful and creative than the sturt set up in the late 60s. cats were laid low by injuries and pity the next team that they play after last nights drubbing.


  11. Dr Rocket says

    You’re right Comrade Nankers!
    Its about modelling

    GREAT week for the good folk of NEW SOUTH WALES!

    Blues won despite the bamford’s home town refereeing.

    SWANS simply awesome.

    The footy culture is alive and well in the Premier State.
    Even 50, 000 people went to the soccer at ANZ last Monday night.
    Everyone is clearly tuning out of Q & A.

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