Top 13 moments in State of Origin history

As sporting rivalries go, it does not get anymore fiercer than the interstate battle between New South Wales and Queensland.

Over the years, the clashes between the pair have showcased some of the most ruthless rugby league while bringing the best out of its competitors and given the sport some great memories. So with that, we take a look at 13 of the greatest moments in Origin’s history.

Game I, 1980: The first ever State of Origin match

We start off rather fittingly right where it all began on July 7, 1980, and the genesis of Origin rugby as we know it today.

Now, even though there had been annual interstate game played between the two before, this would be the first in which new selection rules were implemented in which players would be selected due to the state in which they were born or where they started playing first-grade registered rugby. Before, selection was based on a player’s residence which is why many Queensland-born talent such as the legendary Arthur Beetson would suit up for New South Wales. However, with the new criteria in place, Beetson led the Maroons out for the first time in front of a packed Lang Park in a defining moment for the player and the series.

Game I, 2004: Timmins’ drop goal

The game itself saw Shaun Timmins already enduring a topsy-turvy game – he opened the Blues’ account with a try but allowed the Maroons’ Scott Prince to get through for a try of his own.

As the former St George Illawarra man came into this game, he had only slotted one drop goal in his entire career but with two minutes into golden point extra time, the former Australia international calmly struck a 35-metre effort straight through the posts to seal a 9-8 win for New South Wales.

Game III, 2012: Ice cold Cronk comes up clutch

It looked as if the Blues were about to end six years of dominance from their interstate rivals as they came back from eight points down in the first half to level the scores in the 70th minute thanks to centre Josh Morris.

However, in what was only his third start as Queensland’s starting half-back, Cronk showed no nerves to hit a spectacular 40-metre drop goal in the 75th minute to claim a 21-20 win and extend the Maroons’ Origin streak.

Game III, 2019: Tedesco’s last gasp try

Our most recent entry is that from last year’s Origin affair when it went right down to wire before ending in epic fashion.

After Queensland took game one at Suncorp Stadium, the Blues roared back with a dominant win in game two to take the series to a decider at ANZ Stadium. NSW looked to set win decisively before the Maroons came back to level the scores with four minutes remaining. However, not all was said and done as Brad Fittler’s men pulled off a Queensland style win as Blake Ferguson surged down the flank before throwing an inside pass that allowed James Tedesco to score the match-winning try and clinch the series with hardly any time left on the clock.

Game II, 1991: O’Connor’s sideline conversion in the rain

The Blues were down 12-8 in the dying minutes and with the rain starting to pour down, it looked as if Queensland were about to take the game and the series.

However, up stepped Michael O’Connor, a man who had recently given up kicking duties at Manly to slot one of the great kicks seen in Origin. A late try from Mark McGraw levelled the scores with six minutes left and despite not being in the greatest of form, O’Connor was given kicking duties for the night and with the rain pouring down, he calmly curled the ball home to take the series to a decider.

Game I, 1994: Coyne’s miracle try

It was unbelievable to think that Queensland were still even in the game because after 75 minutes, they had been completely dominated by the Blues and were 12-4 down.

However, Wally Lewis’ side completed one of the most remarkable comebacks, reducing the deficit to two points with a Willie Carne try before having one last chance in the dying seconds to take the spoils and that they did. A play which saw Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Carne, Steve Renouf, Michael Hancock, Darren Smith and Mal Meninga all getting in involved with some slick passing to set up Mark Coyne in the corner and complete one of the great rugby league tries.

Game III, 2004: Slater’s chip and chase

Throughout the history of the Origin series, there has been some excellent tries but there are not many better than Billy Slater’s famous chip and chase.

The then 20-year-old made his Queensland debut during the series and even though he featured on the wing, it did not stop the Melbourne man from making a name for himself. After cleverly collecting a Darren Lockyer grubber, Slater brilliantly chipped the ball over the top of Anthony Minichiello before regathering the ball and scoring one of the best ever Origin tries.

Game III, 2002: The Raging Bull rag dolls Hodgson

In what will go down as probably one of the greatest Origin tackles, Gordon Tallis make his presence felt on a rather unfortunate Brett Hodgson.

Although early on the game, the Blues had plenty of territory and possession but in an effort to turn the tide, the bruising second-rower caught an unsuspecting Hodgson after the former Tigers full-back tried to find some space to run into – but before he knew it, the Raging Bull closed him down and had him by the scruff of the neck to throw him into touch.

Game III, 2004: Freddy’s farewell

There is no question the 2004 series had its fair share of highlights, with Slater’s try and Timmins’ drop goal heroics right there in the memory bank.

However, one of the standout moments came in game three as NSW’s Brad Fittler returned to representative rugby one last time. The former Australia international turned back the years with a vintage performance and scored the Blues’ final try to clinch victory and the series.

Game II, 1985: NSW break drought

After the new selection rules came into place in 1980, it certainly benefited Queensland in those early years as they tasted success throughout the first five years.

It would not be until 1985 when NSW broke the drought and it was certainly worth the wait. After winning game one, the Blues looked on course to take the series as they were 12-0 up but a Queensland comeback was on the cards as they took a 14-12 lead. However, a penalty from Michael O’Connor and a try from Brett Kenny sealed the deal for Terry Fearnley’s men as they broke their duck.

Game III, 2001: Langer’s return to Origin

After losing Paul Green to injury, Maroons coach Wayne Bennett convinced Allan Langer, who was playing for Warrington at the time, to make a return to his home state and Origin rugby.

The former Brisbane half-back became the first Super League player to be selected and his presence was more than enough as he scored a try and assisted two to help steer Queensland to a series win.

Game II, 1991: Lewis clashes with Geyer

In terms of State of Origin history, the image of Wally Lewis and Mark Geyer standing toe to toe will undoubtedly go down as one of the most memorable moments.

As the rain poured down, a controversial tackle from Geyer on Steve Walters led to a half-time fracas which, by the end, saw Lewis square up against a bigger and taller New South Wales man.

Game III, 2006: Lockyer’s winning intercept try

The Maroons were 14-4 down with ten minutes remaining and staring down the barrel of defeat during the 2006 game three decider.

However, the gap would be reduced thanks to a try from Brent Tate before Lockyer would further add to his legacy and complete an epic comeback after pouncing on a loose pass from Brett Hodgson to score a try in the 73rd minute to win the game and the series for Queensland.

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