Phil Gould on the Queensland Maroons line in the sand against NSW Blues, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston
When New South Wales won the 2018 State of Origin Series, it marked the dawn of a new era of dominance.
Finally, it was southern state time to make hay while the sun was shining.
Queensland had won 11 of the previous 12 series, including eight in a row from 2006. It was a painful time for anyone coming from South Tweed. You dare not mumble the words “eight in a row” in any pub where blue adorns the walls.
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But those days were over. A host of the Maroons’ top talent have resigned from their original roles after celebrating the success of 2017.
Five-eighth champion Johnathan Thurston had one game in the 2017 series before a shoulder injury ruled him out.
Cameron Smith retired from Origin ahead of the 2018 series, although he continued in the NRL for another two years. Half-back Cooper Cronk and winger Darius Boyd – key members of the all-powerful Queensland side – haven’t worn the sweater after 2017 either.
Legendary full-back Billy Slater returned the following year at the request of manager Kevin Walters to represent the Maroons. Controversially, he won the Wally Lewis Medal despite playing for the losing team. Greg Inglis also ended his Origin career after 2018.
The Blues won again in 2019 to confirm their arrival as Origin’s new powerhouse. Then, before the word “dynasty” could even be spoken, the balance of power shifted again.
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Brad Fittler’s men somehow lost the streak that many said was impossible – Wayne Bennett was dumped in the Maroons coaching chair at the last minute and had to assemble a ragtag group of misfits into a team of rugby league.
Somehow – it has yet to be properly explained – Queensland have triumphed in 2020.
The Blues bounced back to win in 2021 but now they’ve lost the shield again, being trailed 2-1 by the old foe.
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“It’s another line in the sand,” legendary Blues manager Phil Guold told Wide World of Sports. Six tackles with Gus podcast as he reviewed the original maker.
“All of these great players, all of the senior players who have had this huge run with Queensland, have all retired roughly two years apart.
“And since that time they’ve won two of four series, with a new group of players.
“Sometimes they’ve looked ordinary, but they’re still able to win the ones that matter. They won that series in 2020 with Wayne Bennett as their coach that no one expected them to win. They patched up a team and the have set up.”
Only five players who took part in the 2017 success still represent Queensland in 2022.
Famous names like Smith, Slater, Thurston, Cronk, Boyd and many more have disappeared from jerseys.
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But many of them are now in the technical staff. Slater took charge of the Maroons this year and he brought Smith and Thurston with him as assistants.
Other big names from Origin like Allan Langer and Nate Myles are never far from the player roster.
“You look at all the experience of this team. But in a way, that experience was given back to the coaching staff that they had,” Gould said.
“These great players – Slater, Smith, Thurston – and all the others who have been in the camp for so long, Alfie Langer and so on.
“That’s what I mean about Queensland, it’s been a long and continuous campaign.”
The bad news for Blues fans is that those same names will once again be running the show at Maroons HQ next year.
Who knows when the pain will end.
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