The big Origin blue that sparked a beautiful friendship

TWENTY years ago Billy Moore was involved in one of State of Origin's wildest brawls in Melbourne.

He was part of a much-maligned Queensland side which pulled off one of, if not the greatest upset in State of Origin history.

More was born in Tenterfield, New South Wales on May 7, 1971. But, he always insists his mother rushed him across the border into Queensland before he could inhale any polluted air.

These days Moore is entrenched on the Sunshine Coast where his Mooloolaba pizzeria makes the 'world's best' pizzas.

He and tough NSW forward David Barnhill, the latter who runs the famous William Farrer pub in Wagga Wagga, took time out to recall memories of their famous fight for APN on the 20th anniversary of another clash between Queensland and NSW in Melbourne.


Moore: "The side was much maligned because it didn't have the traditional superstars like Langer, Walters or Renouf.

"We copped plenty from all sides, including the media who were saying we shouldn't be allowed represent Queensland.

"Fatty jumped on the negativity pretty quickly telling us nobody believed in us except for the people inside the four walls with him where we held our first team meeting.

"That cultivated a really strong bond.

"That series was the best six weeks of my life.

"When you think our back three, Robbie O'Davis, Brett Dallas and Matt Singh, before the series had a combined number of Origins totalling zero ….. you will never ever see that ever again.

"As the negatives just kept coming about we had no hope before game one, we got tighter and tighter and you can see what happened with a 2-0 score-line --  no tries -- that will never ever happen again.

"We tackled NSW off the park that night and because they had the calibre of player they had, they became more and more frustrated until in last 20 minutes their attack was ineffective.


"You can't under-value the role both Fatty (Vautin) and Chris Close played in what we achieved, they were the orchestrators.

"Fatty will always be known as the super coach for what he did, but they better make sure they pay enough credit to what Chris Close did, he really propped

"Fatty up at time when he may have been wavering. Choppy was always there.

"The managerial (and) coaching of those two blokes is the best I've ever seen in seeking out the result we got. We believed in what we were doing we believed in each other and we believed this was an opportunity not too many would ever have again."

It didn't build hatred, it built a bond.


Moore: "We knew after being embarrassed in game one they would be filthy and the 'QUEENSLANDER' call coming down the tunnel lit the fuse.

"We knew if anyone one of us said "Queenslander" we would get punched.

"We packed down into the first scrum knowing what was going to happen. It  was basically instigated by our front-row who called out "Queenslander".

"As soon as that happened it just ignited and erupted but we were ready for it."

Barnhill: "There was talk all week it was going to be on and it just exploded."


Moore: "I remember Jed (Gavin Allen) and the Chief (Paul Harragon) were first up out of the scrum going at it, throwing the big haymakers at each other and everyone else started pairing off throwing them. I was at the back of the pack thinking to myself, 'there has to be somebody left'.

"The next second, like a shark, David Barnhill comes circling around behind me.

"He looked at me and I looked at him and he said 'what do you reckon?' and I said 'swing it' and he said 'right let's dance'.

"I look at the footage of us now and it is so embarrassing because I boxed with the great (trainer) Johnny Lewis for years and even went six rounds with Jeff Fenech when he was getting ready to fight Azuma Nelson in Les Vegas.
I also trained with Kosta Tzu. To this day I don't think Johnny Lewis has ever spoken to me again.

"I threw 100 punches that night and they missed. They all had intent but poor application.

"I see the highlights all the time and it's quite comical. My technique mate, it looked like I had a handbag.

Barnhill: "We did a bit of dancing. Billy didn't land a punch.

"I had him in a headlock at one stage and was hitting him but it didn't show up on the footage."



Moore: "Barnie and I played a lot of football against each other prior to that Origin game but that fight actually brought us together. Every time we played after that we acknowledged each other and had a chuckle about how hopeless we were.

"Our careers are over but that fight entwined us as friends.

"I probably do 100 speaking engagements a year and that fight always comes up and David Barnhill's name comes up.

"It's funny, from that moment of infamy when we were both trying knocking each other's head off we have built a lifelong friendship.

"The older we get the better the story telling becomes and the stronger our bond gets.

"We were just two fierce competitors from opposite states trying to get the better of each other.

"It didn't build hatred, it built a bond.

"But, having said that, If I could play Origin tomorrow and he was on the other side,  I'd still want to try and knock his block off."

Barnhill: "Billy is a great bloke and we have become good friends out of it.

"We always have a good laugh about that night.

"I'm sure if we played Origin tomorrow he would try and knock my head off again."


Our condolences go out to David Barnhill and his family following recent passing of his father David Senior, local icon in Wagga Wagga.

The former Chairman and chief executive of the Country Rugby League sadly lost his long and brave battle with cancer of last Saturday aged 75.

During his time at CRL chairman and CEO he fought hard to win gains for country rugby to be recognised at a time when the focus was heavily on the city teams.

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