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Maroons dominate in deciders

By Eden Richards‌, Queensland Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

July 6th 2011: Maroons captain, Darren Lockyer is chaired from the filed by Cameron Smith and Ashley Harrison after game 3 of the 2011 State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, QLD, Australia on July 6, 2011. Photo by Matt Roberts / mattrimages.com.au / QRL
Captain Darren Lockyer leaves Origin a winner in 2011 after the Maroons wrapped up the series in a Game III decider.

The year 2005 was a very long time ago and it probably feels even longer if you are a NSW fan.

John Howard was prime minister of Australia, the Gold Coast Titans were yet to play in the NRL and Queensland's newest debutant Cameron Munster was just a cheeky 10-year-old.

The Maroons have won all six of the deciding fixtures since, helping form a Queensland era of dominance that has seen the Queenslanders win 10 of the past 11 Origin series.

Maroons captain Cameron Smith has played a vital part in each of these series victories, including all six deciders, but he is refusing to concede that his side has a psychological advantage heading into decider number seven on Wednesday night.

"I don't think so. I don't believe it does (give us a mental edge)," Smith said.

"Last year was last year and the year before that is gone. This year it's all about this match on Wednesday night.

"It doesn't matter what's gone on in the past, or the history of this side.

"It's about focusing on what we can do Wednesday and that's really all.

"I'd like to think with the way we've gone about this week and how well we've trained, we've got a good opportunity to win it."

Nerve-racking deciders

It just may be the case that history counts for nothing as Wednesday night approaches but it is important not to forget the deciding matches that have made the Blues so desperate for a win this time around.

For this reason, it’s time to look back at these six deciders, reliving some of the most exciting and nerve-racking clashes in recent Origin history.

As viewers we have been privileged to see the likes of modern day Queensland legends Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Smith deliver their side victory time and time again when defeat seemed all but certain.

Game 3, 2006 – Queensland 16 defeated NSW 14.

"Oh! Intercepted by Locky! Locky scores! They can't take that off him! They won't take that off him!"

You will be doing well to find anyone that has forgotten those famous lines uttered by Ray Warren when Queensland five-eighth Lockyer pounced on a wayward pass from New South Wales' Brett Hodgson to score under the posts. Down and out for all money, the Maroons fought back from 14-4 down with 10 minutes remaining; with Lockyer's match-winning try in the 74th minute now the symbol of the beginning of Queensland's 11-year Origin dominance. It was the Maroons' first series victory since 2002, inspiring Queensland to eight series wins in a row. Interestingly, NSW were in the box seat to win the series after Game I, claiming a 17-16 victory courtesy of a Brett Finch field goal. However, the Maroons' 30-6 domination in Game II gave them the belief to go on with it and Queensland somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Game 3, 2008 – Queensland 16 defeated NSW 10.

2008 was viewed as the perfect opportunity for the Blues to snatch back the Origin shield. With two games in Sydney and an 18-10 Game I victory, NSW had every right to be confident. Even after losing Game II 30-0 at Suncorp Stadium, the consensus was that the Blues would still be good enough to win a deciding match at home. You see at this point in time, Queensland had only won once in Sydney since 1999 – a horrible record that the Maroons would somehow have to overcome. It started dreadfully for Queensland, losing halfback Scott Prince within the first 20 minutes. Maroons winger Israel Folau tried to lift his side by scoring two spectacular tries, but Queensland still trailed 10-8 at half-time. Enter Thurston. Deep into the second half, the stand-in five-eighth dummied to beat Brett White before throwing an inside ball to Slater who scored the match-winning try next to the posts. This moment of brilliance secured the Maroons just their second win at Olympic Stadium, with the classy try assist now a defining highlight in Thurston's epic career. "Show and go baby".

Game 3, 2011 – Queensland 34 defeated NSW 24.

This match is remembered more for what happened after the full-time whistle had sounded rather than what took place on the field. It was full-time and the Maroons had just capped off their sixth consecutive series victory, in the process giving Lockyer a perfect farewell after jumping out to an uncatchable 24-point lead early in the match. Soon a man in a wheelchair appeared out of the tunnel as 16 Queenslanders celebrated on the field. With tears streaming down his face and a green whistle in his mouth, Thurston saluted to the crowd. He was soon embraced by his teammates in emotional scenes that brought a sold-out Suncorp Stadium to their feet. Thurston had earlier suffered a season-ending knee injury during the match, but the pain of that moment was replaced by an iconic piece of vision that will never be forgotten. It was a fitting end to a great series, with the Maroons' two matches at home proving the difference.

Game 3, 2012 – Queensland 21 defeated NSW 20.

That Cronk field goal.

Those four words and that would be enough to sum up this enthralling clash that left Blues hearts broken and Queenslanders in seventh heaven. Locked at 20-all and sitting 40m out with five minutes to play, Cronk produced arguably the most clutch play of any Origin match during the past 10 years. He simply had no right to kick it, but he did. Peter Sterling announced in the commentary box that with no Lockyer Queensland needed a new man to take control – they had found him. Cronk's field goal came against the run of play after a Josh Morris try had given the Blues momentum, levelling the match and giving NSW hope that the streak could be broken. But it was not to be. The Blues were probably the better team, but Queensland's will to win saw the Maroons pull a rabbit out of the hat.

Game 3, 2013 – Queensland 12 defeated NSW 10.

What a win this was. In terms of the six deciders, there is no doubt that this is Queensland's grittiest and hardest fought victory. Heading into the series, the Blues were very confident. Two games in Sydney were a huge advantage and a 14-6 win at ANZ Stadium in Game I had NSW primed to dash any hopes Queensland had of winning eight series in a row. After the Maroons won Game II comfortably, the stage was set for the Blues. Everything so far had gone to script – surely this was it?

But there was only one problem; Queensland did not want to lose, not in the slightest. NSW threw everything at the Maroons, with Queensland repelling wave after wave of attacking threats. When the Maroons did have the ball, a streaker of all things denied them what would have been the match-sealing try. But despite a lopsided penalty count in the Blues' favour and seemingly everything going against them, Queensland again found a way to win. Jumping out to a 12-4 lead with 20 minutes to go, the Maroons held on and once again showed their greatness.

Game 3, 2015 – Queensland 52 defeated NSW 6

Look away now Blues fans – this is not pretty.

One year after claiming their first series victory since 2005, the Blues had a chance to go back-to-back and give back some of the treatment they had copped over Queensland's eight years of dominance. NSW had the momentum in the series, winning Game II in Melbourne after Daly Cherry-Evans struggled in the absence of an injured Cronk. This turned out to be Cherry-Evans's last Origin match, with Cronk returning for Game III at his expense. Cronk's inclusion was huge for Queensland but no one expected how much of a difference he would make to the Maroons. A difference so large it resulted in a 56-point turnaround between Game II and Game III.

To put it simply, Game III was a shellacking from start to finish. Queensland finished with eight different try scorers and to rub salt into the wounds of the Blues, public enemy No.1 Justin Hodges kicked a conversion on full-time as his last act as an Origin player before he hung up the boots. It truly was one of the darkest nights in the history of the Blues who were embarrassed in front of an unforgiving Suncorp Stadium crowd.