Tough Going

The chips are down. Backs are to the wall. Blood is being spilt. Rules and bones are being broken. Legs are like cement blocks. The gas tank is down to the last droplet. OHHHHHHHHHH YEAHHHHHHHHHHHH. (Insert Tim ?The Tool-man? Taylor grunt here. Well, we are talking about Origin, so insert 5 grunts.) I can?t imagine watching a better scenario for any side. Nothing beats it.

Queensland are renowned for their gritty determination and willingness to triumph over the face of adversity. For many years, the brave soldiers who toiled the grounds of Lang Park, the S.C.G, the Sydney Football Stadium, Telstra Stadium and A.N.Z Stadium (a brief stint), have had to look deep inside themselves to snatch victory from the jagged jaws of defeat.

The first instance is the 1982 series, the first to be decided over 3 matches. New South Wales had lost the two previous matches. They went into the match lead by Max Krilich and a bolter. They selected Penrith?s sensation Brad ?The Wizard? Izzard after only a half dozen matches in the top grade. The ploy worked with The Blues prevailing 20-16, with Izzard scoring a try after coming off the bench. Queensland were 1-0 down. Gene Miles comes in for Mitch Brennan in the centres and Rod Morris for Paul Vautin. The move proved to be a masterstroke as Queensland edged out the opposition 11-7, with Miles scoring a try and providing starch in defence and Morris earning man of the match honours. But the job wasn?t done. The Queenslanders had to go to game three to win it. Armed with a sense of purpose and the return of Big Mal, they got up in game three by 10-5, not only winning the first best of three but by coming from 1-0 down to do it. HOO-HA (An Al Pacino-esque chant from ?Scent of a Woman?.)

But wait right there. As Tim Shaw from Demtel says, ?I know you want more.? And by the grace of my good heart, you are going to get more. If its broken bones, bruised flesh and weary legs you want, then do not go past game two in 1989. This game here personified the Origin spirit for Queensland. At half time the Maroons dressing room resembled a casualty ward. Allan Langer was replaced after 18 minutes with a fractured ankle; Mal Meninga left the field in the 29th minute with a fractured eye socket; Fatty Vautin was unable to take the field in the second half after having an elbow hyperextension and Mick Hancock was replaced after 57 minutes with a shoulder injury. Not bad enough? Well Bobby Lindner was carried off with 5 minutes to go after hobbling around for a few minutes on a broken leg. WHAT?CHA GONNA DO? Those are the words of the immortal Hulk Hogan. Queensland rallied. They fought. NSW were desperate. Queensland were down to 12 men but guts and the enamel of their teeth got them home to wrap up the ?89 series after The Blues brought back the master coach, Jack Gibson.

But if its drama, edge of your seat, fist nibbling, gut wrenching tension you want, then as Michael Buffer says before big boxing matches, ?LLLLLLLET?S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLE?. It?s Game 1, 1994 at the SFS. Brad Mackay scores under the sticks, seemingly putting the game into the Blues grasp. But the mighty Maroons didn?t lie down. They mustered up all their courage, fought their way downfield, avoiding tackles and passed the ball to Mark Coyne who got inside three defenders and planted the ball over the line to take victory for the Maroons.

And if that?s not enough for you, stick your plate out, because here comes another helping of Origin succulence to appease your burdening appetite. The 2002 series was level after two games thanks to the best TBA in history, Lote Tuqiri. The grandstand finish was set. Game three was arduous with Queensland leading with 5 minutes to go when NSW scored to lead 18-14. The game was nearly over but with a little help from ?Alfie?, big Dane Carlaw broke away and scored after a 50 metre sprint to level the game, 18 all. The trophy stayed with Queensland. It personified guts. It personified determination. It immortalised QUEENSLAND.

I believe it was Brian Kennedy, the famous Irish singer/songwriter, who sang, ?You raise me up so I can stand on mountains...?. What a feeling. What a resounding chapter in the annals of Origin folklore.

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