The most memorable Origin: Ticker

The most memorable Origin: Ticker

Wayne 'Ticker' Heming is a veteran rugby league correspondent who has attended more than 100 State of Origin matches. Approaching the first game of the 2018 Origin series, held on June 6 in Melbourne, 'Ticker' will delve into the memory banks to recall some of his standout moments and individuals from one of the world's greatest sporting contests.

 

Queensland and NSW have gone into battle more than 100 times since the first State of Origin 'experiment' back in 1980.

Until the last decade or so - when the Maroons won 11 of 12 Origin series - there was barely a struck match between them.

Having reported on 100 of these gladiatorial jousts, you would think it would be easy to declare my best games of all-time right?

Almost every one of the 109 Origins since 1980 have showcased courage, toughness, desperation, pride and passion, and all the ingredients that go into make this best-of-three interstate series the biggest sporting blockbuster in the country.

State of Origin sits in the same stratosphere in this country as Super Bowl does in America.

Trying to select my best Origins was a real challenge, because the ones I watched in the 80s, I never thought I would see better.

These fierce and fiery battles continued into 90s and each time the bar just kept getting raised high and higher.

I have come up with a few games that stick in my mind and still send shivers up my spine.

After much contemplation, the best Origin match I have witnessed was the second game of the 1989 series.

It was not a flashy victory, it didn't feature any spectacular Mark Coyne 'miracle try' on the bell, and it wasn't one of Queensland's many come-from-the-grave efforts.

This memorable victory was built on sheer courage, guts, resolve, heart and bucket loads of the stuff NSW refuse to believe exists - Maroon spirit - which dripped from every Queenslander that night as they recorded, in my opinion, the finest win of its glorious history.

It's is a performance which is brought up and talked about in many Queensland camps as a reminder of the sacrifices players must be willing make in they pull on a Maroons jumper.

I remember watching the game from Sydney Football Stadium press room, after Allan Langer (fractured ankle) Mal Meninga (fractured eye socket) and Paul Vautin (elbow) all left the field injured in the first half of a brutal game.

I was questioning how they could possibly hold on.

When fiery young winger Michael Hancock joined them in the Maroons' makeshift medical ward in the dressing room, there seemed no way known that Queensland could survive.

And when champion lock Bob Lindner hobbled from the field with a leg injury, leaving Queensland with just 12 foot soldiers clinging to a 16-12 lead for the last five minutes, it was just too much to ask.

But they did it. They refused to buckle, they dug as deep as they have ever dug to the disappointment of Blues' fans, claiming arguably their finest Origin victory, before wrapping up the series 3-0.

I remember the next morning I was ironing a shirt in the laundry room of the old Rushcutters Bay Travelodge when Bob Lindner limped into the room.

It was only then I learned he had played many minutes of the second half with a fractured leg before he was unable to get another metre out of his body.

Astonishing stuff.

I've seen many great Queensland victories since but none that can knock that one from the top of list.

Another amazing game which produced the lowest score in Origin clashes is also high on my list.

It was 1995 when Paul Vautin's 'Neville Nobodies' and massive underdogs upstaged a NSW side that was apparently unbackable and unbeatable.

When the ARL deemed any players aligned with Super League were ineligible for the 1995 Origin series, Queensland lost its backline and some key forwards.

Vautin stepped in and assembled a collection of very good players, but to be fair, on paper, had no right to win one game, let alone sweep the series.

It was the first game and Queensland had already been written off.

The side the Blues selected contained almost a dozen internationals – Andrew and Matt Johns, Paul Harragon, Mark Carroll, Steve Menzies, Brad Fittler, Paul McGregor and Tim Brasher just to name a few, and was coached by Phil Gould.

They should have posted a big score against Queensland, a side which was mostly a collection of good first graders, many of whom would never have otherwise got to play an Origin game.

Try ripping Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Steve Walters, Wendell Sailor, Steve Renouf, Willie Carne and Michael Hancock out of your side and see how you go.

Well their replacements - Tony Hearn, Gavin Allen, Bartrim, Terry Cook, Craig Teevan, Robbie O'Davis, Danny Moore, Matt Sing and a young Ben Ikin - accepted the challenge magnificently.

With Wayne Bennett aligned to Super League with the star-studded Broncos, QRL boss, the late Ross Livermore, sent an SOS to fan favourite Paul Vautin, who at the time was hosting Channel 9's The Footy Show.

The conversation went something like this.

Livermore: "Fatty, Wayne (Bennett) has pulled out of the Queensland coaching role, do you want it?

Vautin: "Yep."

Livermore: "Do you want some time to think about it?"

Vautin: "Nup, the answer is yes. Let's do it. Let's go."

The game produced both the lowest score and the first tryless Origin, with former St George hooker Wayne Bartrim kicking a first half penalty goal for a 2-0 win.

Game two in Melbourne featured one of the wildest brawls in Origin history, before Queensland wrapped up a shock series 20-12 in front of 50,000 fans at the MCG, sweeping the Blues 24-6 in front of a packed Lang Park mob.