One of the highlights of the build up to Perth’s inaugural Origin clash was the opportunity for Maroons and Blues fans to experience the best of the region and mingle with Origin legends as part of several packages put together by NRL Travel.
The Sunday scheduling of the game gave supporters of both teams the chance to make a long weekend of the Origin experience.
On Saturday, Maroons legends Steve Renouf and Sam Thaiday linked up with former Blues halfback Brett Kimmorley for a trip to Mandoon Estate winery in the Swan Valley along with busloads of supporters.
On Sunday, the attendees had a genuine surprise sprung on them when Maroons legend Cameron Smith joined Blues great Anthony Minichiello on stage before taking questions from the floor.
That was followed by Minichiello, Kimmorley, Renouf, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva all spinning some great tales of their own at a separate pre-game event in an Irish pub.
Both Webcke and Civoniceva reflected on their favourite Origin moments and it was no surprise that Allan Langer’s stunning 2001 return to the Maroons from England was front and centre.
In 2001, Civoniceva was an Origin rookie and spoke of his surprise and elation when a yellow taxi pulled up outside the team hotel, and out hopped Langer.
Webcke related how he and several other more senior players had been asked by coach Wayne Bennett what they thought of the idea of Langer making a comeback.
“Wayne said ‘what do you think?’ and I said ‘It is a great idea’. Then he said ‘that’s good … because Alf is already on the plane’,” Webcke chuckled.
The experience of the travellers from eastern states, and the sell-out crowd at Optus Stadium, was a strong indicator of why a Sunday Origin in other states works a treat.
Many of those who made the trip said they would be heading to Adelaide for a scheduled Origin clash next year, and expressed the hope that it too would be played on a Sunday.