State of reunion as Queensland and supercoach roll back the years

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

What with everything else going on, it was up to State of Origin to do what it has done for 40 years and provide a strong dose of escapism.

The Queensland-NSW rivalry – dubbed "the greatest in sport" on the Adelaide Oval scoreboard, possibly an affront to AFL-crazed South Australians, but we do live in the heyday of hyperbole – has achieved its success not by embracing the triviality of sport, but by forcefully denying it.



Origin is not life and death, it's more important than that. Or so say Queenslanders, who have swallowed Bill Shankly's famous dictum completely without irony. For Queenslanders, as represented by their Maroons, beating NSW in this contest has been invested with a terrible gravity.

Played in November, in Adelaide, in strong winds on a fast track, was Origin up to the job? Could it keep playing its magic trick, keep suspending our disbelief? Origin divides two parts of a nation ferociously against each other – but was this, somehow, too close to the bone?

After a national anthem which, as usual, raised more questions than it answered, uniting nothing but a shared national ambiguity, the signs were initially good for Queensland. They were wearing a heritage jersey, reprising their greatest memories, while NSW wore a design inspired by pedestrian crossings.

NSW hooker Damien Cook fluffed the first kick-off and the Maroons enjoyed the early chances. But they lacked cohesion, and when Cook's sniping produced the first try, and then Josh Addo-Carr scored in the corner, the Blues looked like winning in exactly the way the experts had forecast, through their superior speed. Up the middle or out wide, they had quicker players, and there is no substitute for sheer pace.

But there are alternatives to it.

After 40 minutes, NSW looked like fulfilling the predictions with a clinical victory. What kind of respite from reality would that be? And then, something happened during the half-time break.

The redux Queensland coach, Wayne Bennett, who both deserves and resembles a statue of himself for his services to Origin, mumbled a few sweet nothings that will not be known to the outside world, as Bennett had put paid to a proposal to make an inside-the-wire documentary about the series. Whatever he said, which will remain secret Queensland knowledge, extracted a stunning surge of intensity from his men. Adelaide resounded with the chant "Queenslander". If anything can unite other Australians, it's antipathy to NSW.

Kurt Capewell was the classic Queensland Origin story: called up from obscurity, a last-minute replacement, a lesser option until he pulled on that Maroon jersey. He took the signal about the Blues and their zebra crossings and ran over the top of Clint Gutherson before performing an outside-of-the-foot trick kick to set up AJ Brimson. It was the type of thing that Capewell had never done in his life before, but only now was he enjoying the transformative properties of the Queensland jersey.

Moments later, Dane Gagai did the same to Jack Wighton on the other side of the field. Xavier Coates, not the only right-winger having a good night, went over in the corner.

When Daly Cherry-Evans converted from the sideline, Queensland had flipped the state of the game. Now in panic mode, the Blues' Daniel Tupou threw a loose pass. Cameron Munster capitalised and Queensland, away from home, were away with the result.

Cherry-Evans was man of the match. As anyone who had watched him playing for Manly this season could tell you, he has been at the top of his game for months, he only needed a little less on his plate. With Munster and Ben Hunt sharing playmaking duties, Cherry-Evans was able to express his talents.

Only once they were behind did NSW regain their vitality, but they had spent too long frozen in shock, and their thawing was too late. Queensland were deserving winners.

Whether this provided an absorbing time out from life, an opportunity to forget, was, of course, up to the individual viewer. But this was a refreshing and exciting game of league, as competitive as ever. Adelaide, early summer, it doesn't matter. Queensland remain Queensland, and the game is stronger for that. Some things buck the most educated forecasting. What kind of escape from reality is that?

Sport newsletter

Sports news, results and expert commentary delivered straight to your inbox each weekday. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Sport

Source: Read Full Article