AFTER an 83 minute arm-wrestle it was the unlikely left boot of Shaun Timmins that edged NSW ahead of Queensland in Origin's first ever golden point victory
The NRL Origin series of 2003 will long be remembered by the general public for one kick that ?sealed the deal?, but it was the undeniable build up that made it just that extra bit special.
Debate was fierce in the early part of the NRL season as to whether the golden point rule that was instilled in the NRL should be inherited into the Origin arena. It was decided upon that the Origin series would have golden point and no-one could have fathomed what was to come in the proceeding series.
It was hard to miss the delicious irony as Shaun Timmins set himself up for the most memorable solitary point of his decade long career. Four years ago, Timmins suffered a knee injury scoring a try against the Maroons. What followed was a soul-destroying nightmare, and there were times when Timmins feared he wouldn't get back.
For two years, the NSW pivot didn't play a game as he underwent a revolutionary bone graft to save his career. To this day, his limited or in some instances lack of mobility forces him to barely train with his team-mates. After matches, he is reduced to an old-man's hobble, forced to drain fluid from his knees.
An even more remarkable feat is that after 83 minutes of Origin 1, Timmins found the resolve to be a hero as he launched a spine-tingling 35-metre field goal with his battered left leg to seal the Blues' 9-8 victory in Origin's first ever golden point. The moment was even more special due to the voicemail and misconduct scandal that resulted in the axing of Mark Gasnier and Anthony Minichello. With this in mind, the moment provided deliverance for warhorse Timmins, and the entire Blues camp, which had been plunged into crises. The celebrations were astounding to say the least, in a pool of emotions men wept at what had been accomplished.
"I spoke to him (Timmins) before Michael De Vere came into the squad because we were looking for a second goal kicker," explained NSW coach Phil Gould.
"I knew he'd done goal kicking in the past and he said: 'I had a kick in front to win a game about five years ago and I missed it and I haven't had a kick since'. But I spoke about stepping up and doing things that people don't expect."
No-one could have envisaged the sweetness of Timmin's kick - but it never looked like missing. From the moment it left the boot the crowd rose in anticipation. There was rumbling in the stadium with a ripe mix of emotions from both the NSW and QLD stalwarts present. With the ball still 20 metres shy of the uprights, Timmin's leapt skyward and punched the night air with unbridled joy as team-mates piled on him.
For the Maroons, it was a devastating knockout blow. They had scored two tries to one, but the lacklustre goal-kicking of Cameron Smith, missing with both of his attempts at goal, killed them. The importance of Smith?s 62nd minute kick from the sideline was so phenomenal that the pressure was too great and the kick sailed wide, abandoning a possible, unassailable 10 - 8 lead. Later, coach Michael Hagan was not convinced the contest needed to be decided by golden point, a summation echoed by Maroons captain Shane Webcke.
"It was a tough way to lose," said Hagan, whose club side Newcastle won a golden point affair over the Broncos in round 10. "I was on the receiving end of golden point a fortnight ago and I thought it had a bit going for it. However, I've changed the way I want to vote on that."
Webcke said "I don't know that it's the greatest way to end what was a wonderful spectacle of rugby league." And one would find it hard to argue against that sentiment. Why a game of attrition should be settled in this means is beyond comprehension, but it has changed history.
On the score of quality, this, the 70th origin clash, was not the one for the highlight reels. But the closeness of the scores, the desperation, the unrivalled bravery of the combatants, the extra-time finish all combined with an irresistible finale, made it an unforgettable experience for any onlooker who had the privilege to watch.
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