Two of Queensland’s greatest halfbacks, Allan Langer and Duncan Thompson, were honoured in special ways on Tuesday and their careers and legacy can be a great boost to the Maroons against the New South Wales Blues tonight.
Langer was unveiled in bronze and his statue out the front of Suncorp Stadium will be an eternal reminder of the magic he wove for the Maroons in the State of Origin arena.
Thompson, the 1919 Queensland skipper who recovered from being shot in the right lung during World War I to forge a stellar career, was honoured when the Maroons donned a replica jersey of the one the 1919 Queenslanders wore at their customary captain’s run.
First to Langer.
The blonde halfback was one of the smallest players to wear a Queensland jersey but he had a heart the size of Phar Lap.
From the moment he entered the Origin arena in 1987 he showcased a desire to take the line on and a belief his own unique skill set would carry the day no matter what the occasion.
Remember there were initial doubts, even by some of his teammates, that he would thrive in the Origin arena. He soon put those to bed in 1987 and it was a man of the match performance in the decider at Lang Park that announced a rare talent.
There have been doubts about whether this 2019 Maroons side can cope with the retirements of greats Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
This week coach Kevin Walters has spoken about the great belief he has in his side. If all 17 Maroons play with the belief and confidence Langer displayed during his career, it will carry them a long way.
That belief of the 34-game Origin legend was also complemented by a real passion for the game, and joy. He played with the same razzle dazzle that he displayed in the backyard with his brothers as a boy in Ipswich.
You see the same panache in the play of Cameron Munster.
Munster is like Langer in that he never dies wondering. He doesn’t second guess himself. That was Langer all over. He backed himself and when the game was on the line he wanted to win it.
Queensland will need that mentality if they are to prevail over the Blues.
Thompson was shot in the lung on April 5, 1918. A year later he was captaining Queensland and representing Australia.
He ran relentlessly on his own at 6am in the morning and again at 6pm at night to ensure his one good lung was strong enough to face the rigours of representative football.
As coach Walters said this week: “It just shows his spirit, desire and drive to play for Queensland.”
"How tough is he physically, and mentally? That is what stands out to me, his mental toughness, and that always puts you in a great position in any sport and particularly rugby league at Origin level,” Walters said.
There will be moments on Wednesday night where the Maroons will no doubt face a NSW onslaught. They may find themselves in deep trouble or under siege. It is in those moments that the same spirit and desire Thompson displayed every day will need to surge through their veins.
Thompson went on to coach Toowoomba Clydesdales to six Bulimba Cup titles and also was at the helm of the Queensland side.
He became famous for “contract football”, an enterprising style of football where support play was paramount.
Several of the Maroons' greatest moments have come on the back of playing a modern version of contract football. The ‘miracle try’ of game one in 1994 springs to mind where the Maroons players were around the ball in support all the way to the tryline when Mark Coyne scored. The last gasp try in game one of the 1998 series when Tonie Carroll scored to secure a 24-23 win epitomised the same philosophy.
That legacy of Thompson’s can help Queensland on Wednesday night.
If Munster and Kalyn Ponga go through, then the likes of Michael Morgan and Corey Oates need to be there with them. It is a contract they must make with each other, as Thompson’s men did with distinction.