My first post questioned why anyone would burn their candle watching an injury-depleted Brisbane side take on a desperately inexperienced Sydney Roosters in the driving rain last Sunday – so it’s a relief to have State of Origin Two to look forward to.
I haven’t been to an Origin since 1999, and back then I went for Queensland despite being born and raised in Sydney. I think it was something about the allure of an underdog, and despite Roosters heroes Fittler, Ricketson, Fletcher and Barnhill filling the NSW squad I opted for the Adriam Lam-skippered Maroons.
My enduring memory of that game was the weather, which has fittingly returned to the harbour city this past week. To dust off an old joke, I’m pretty sure I saw Noah’s arc parked in the Homebush Bay car park that night 13 years ago. It pissed down rain for 80 minutes, which probably explains the 12-8 scoreline (in the Blues’ favour), and a crowd well short of capacity for what was then a brand spanking new Olympic Stadium. Incidentally, it was also the game that gave rise to that famous image of Terry Hill and Gorden Tallis that so perfectly captures the spirit of Origin.
After my 13-year interstate hiatus, I think it’s the romance of the underdog that’s drawn me back. As someone who was spoilt with elite club football during the Roosters’ Fittler era I used to get frustrated that the Origin season would disrupt the flow of club footy. But post-Fittler, and with the Roosters more well acquainted with the foot of the ladder, Origin provides welcome respite. Plus, the six years of Queensland dominance has added a bit of feeling. This state’s appetite for victory is keener than ever, having been starved of the trophy for so long.
Is David capable of knocking off Goliath? Tomorrow, perhaps. They did it last year with an immense performance in front of a rabidly partisan crowd. The gallery tomorrow will be even bigger, the stakes even higher, and Ricky Stuart will have his charges even more energised for the battle. The third game might be a different kettle of fish, but tomorrow I reckon the Blues can keep their head above water (metaphorically, and literally, in spite of the duck-friendly weather).