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State of Origin football has provided so many wonderful contests, moments and memories over its first 25 years and with the recent decision to include the Gold Coast as the NRL?s 16th team, it?s likely that trend will continue as more youngsters eligible for Queensland make their way into the NRL.
Everyone knows the most prominent moments but most of us would also have personal memories of incidents that most everyone else would have missed.
For all the great players that have played for both sides over the years, I was always mindful of the supporting acts, the lesser players who often played out of their skins, particularly for Qld. Rohan Hancock was an early example and one of the last of the genuine bushies who played the game at this level. He was very rough and ready, no polish on this lad, but tough as teak and didn?t he give it to the pampered stars of the early Blues sides? He didn?t give a fig for reputations and played his way into an Australian jersey that, based on his talent, he had no right to expect.
Colin Scott cut down a run-away Eric Grothe with a wonderful covering tackle just short of the corner flag before Brad Backer slid in to assist and actually pushed Grothe over the line. Or Ross Henrick, The Ant, with shoulder pads bigger than the rest of him, except perhaps his heart, taking it to the all-time great halfbacks he opposed, like Sterling and Mortimer.
And Wally Fullerton-Smith ? when he was selected, most Qlders reaction was ?Wally who?? but the selectors knew what they were doing and he went on to stun the Blues with his stinging defence. I remember FS desperately hurdling fallen players on the tryline to make a tackle on a try-bound Blue he had no right to make, only for Colin Scott to come over the top at the death and receive all the credit from the commentators for the try-saving hit. If FS hadn?t made the effort he did, it wouldn?t have mattered what Scott did. My mate and I watched countless replays of the tape and laughed every time Scott was credited with the hit. We still laugh about it today.
And Brad Tessman, has there ever been a less co-ordinated and less talented player pull on his state colours? He played for Australia too, on the back of his inspired displays for Qld.
I was there in 1986 for the debut of Les Kiss, the Bundy Bullet. A budding champion cruelled by injury, the memories of his incisive running and football smarts remain with me to this day.
Another time, I was on the hill at Lang Park. Qld were copping a hiding and to make things worse, it started to rain. One despairing punter called out, ?Wally, stop the rain!? and, lo and behold, he did. Couldn?t win the game that night but we still went home with a story.
Another memory was Paul Hauff at fullback shadowing Greg Alexander on an angled run to the corner post. It didn?t show up at all when I watched the TV replay later but from high up in the Ron McAuliffe Stand, I saw the mercurial Brandy throw a million tricky steps, shuffles and shimmies at Hauff, in a run that would have left most defenders sprawled on the turf after tripping over their own feet and grasping at air. It did him no good that night though, Hauff, at the zenith of a brilliant patch of form before his decline into footballing oblivion, covered them all with consummate ease and threw him into touch. Footballing genius from both players, but you had to be there to see it.
Or the glorious night in 2001 when two young Cowboys, John Buttegieg and John Doyle, and one future one in Carl Webb, all scored on debut to set up a thumping Qld win. Two of those three were hardly seen again at this level, but they?d written their own piece of Origin history, something we mere mortals can only dream about.
No doubt, you cockroach fans have some precious memories too. Duplicating Qld?s spirit and passion during Goose Gould?s reign, geez, we laughed about that at the time. We were down and short on hope but in the words of a legendary Qld bard
?Beware the wounded Queenslander as he battles for the crown, Never write him off and he will never let you down.?
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