Crash: This is one Artie would be proud of

 

Somewhere up there Arthur Beetson would be cracking open the coldest of coldies.

That's because all those things that he stood for in the first State of Origin match 40 years ago - the underdog spirit, the belief that no cause is lost, the relentless passion - vividly came back to life before a disbelieving Adelaide Oval crowd last night.

Happy anniversary, Artie.

On the 40th anniversary of Origin this was a throwback to the 1980s when underrated teams from Queensland used to relish tearing down their bigger-named rivals, smothering them with relentless pressure, supporting each other as if they were ready to die in the trenches.

This is one of the most significant Origin wins this century because Queensland needed it so badly.

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After the failure of the Broncos and Cowboys and the loss of the past two series, Queensland rugby league players fans were starting to spend too much time staring at their shoe laces.

Suddenly they are not simply looking NSW players in the eye but starting them down.

NSW were rarely poised last night, Queensland rarely rattled. What a magnificent fortnight awaits rugby league fans as NSW attempt to scramble back in the series in Sydney before the final game in Brisbane.

It was almost as if NSW's tag as red-hot favourites made them snatch at it.

Coaches Wayne Bennett and Mal Meninga worked their magic in the way they have so many times before at this level.

By demystifying the opposition, by keeping things light and positive but focused in camp, by keeping the game plan so simple they made a team with eight - repeat eight - debutants scrap like mad dogs.

It was straight out the finest Origin playbooks - don't rush it, keep the faith, stay cool. Queensland even had their old 1980s jerseys which made them look as if they had just jumped out of the sepia-tinted pages of history.

Bennett said he tried to convince the players it was just another game and, in a sense, that is how many of the new boys like hooker Jake Friend played.

Friend poured 12 years of first grade into an Origin debut at 30 and looked born for the big stage.

Dane Gagai is just something else at Origin. His senses seem to gain an electric edge whenever he puts on a Maroon jumper and even he struggles to explain why.

It's not quite true to say he is Clark Kent at club level and Super Man at Origin but it has that sort of feel to it.

Saving tries, slipping miracle balls, leaping tall buildings with a single bound … he can do the lot.

In some ways late inclusion Kurt Capewell embodied the "whatever it takes'' spirit of the side.

Nothing has come easily for the Charleville-born utility, who drifted through the Broncos and Roosters set-ups and the Ipswich Jets on the way to Cronulla, and now Penrith.

He may have been better suited to the backrow but when called on top play his other position but he played centre and was injured late.

 

 

Yet he provided a perfect kick to get Queensland going with an early try and rose to the challenge of keeping the Blues backline in check.

But it was a night when every Maroon player seemed to do something of significance.

Cameron Munster showed his mega-alert footy smarts to swoop on a ball and score a runaway try.

Prop Christian Welch always seem to find the grunt metres when required. Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans ran the show like the cool-headed general he has matured in to.

After full-time Bennett walked out to greet his team as if he was walking into Woolworths. Super cool, unruffled. That is one of his great gifts to teams under pressure. The vibe.

It was 483 days since the last Origin break - the longest gap between Origins ever, and in a way - with Adelaide the venue, the 11 new faces, and COVID restricted 26,000 crowd - it did feel disconnected from much of the series recent history.

NSW, winners of the last two series, at times looked as if they had been dragged out of a Mad Monday barbecue but they were always dangerous.

The fact it started in twilight rather than after dark was a bit like Santa coming down your chimney at 4pm on Christmas Eve.

It looked a bit weird, but that's 2020.

Originally published as Crash: This is one Artie would be proud of


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