NSW lose challenge, QLD WIN!

‘On behalf of the worst ever QLD team, thank you very much!’

Cricket has The Invincibles and now Queensland State of Origin folklore has a new set of rugby league legends … The Improbables.

What a team. What a story.

They were branded - and rebranded - the worst Queensland team in 40 years who simply could not win.

Yet somehow they did, taking the deciding Origin match 20-14 and the series 2-1 at a sold out, rafter-rocking Suncorp Stadium which brought the famous "Queenslander'' chant out back to life in an instant Origin classic.

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Most fittingly on Origin's 40th birthday, this match was a throwback to another time when Queensland were lean, mean and desperate in a match which had everything including a streaker as the Maroons won the series for the first time in three years.

It was an old fashioned Suncorp mugging where, for most of the match, Queensland's defenders could have been no more intimidating if they had been wearing balaclavas before the Blues class shone late and stormed Queensland line as heart rates throughout the entire state soared into the red zone.

 

Queensland made fools of the ghouls in what must be crowned the greatest series win in 25 years since Fatty Vautin's unsung Maroons won 3-0.

Some of the squad had not played for more than a month before the series and would not be recognised in the Queen St Mall.

Eleven had never played Origin. Some were fringe starters for their clubs. Eleven had been either rejected or passed over the Broncos. One (Brenko Lee) didn't even have a club contract last Christmas.

Yet they beat the blue-chip Blues in the way Queensland teams used to win 30 years ago - with hustle, bustle and rustle, overwhelming them with crazy-eyed tenacity so fierce that Queensland's biggest threat was wanting it so badly they occasionally snatched at it too hard.

 

 

It was very much a case of cometh the hour cometh the Munster for Cameron Munster, described by former captain Cam Smith as a "loveable ratbag,'' was Queensland's king of conjure, with his audacious cross field kick on the first tackle to Edrick Lee the embodiment of his bravado.

It came in a period where he kicked the ball three times on three different parts of his boot in 50 seconds … who does that?

This was a win where old grievances were shunted aside in the name of collective glory.

Coach Wayne Bennett had barely spoken to Maroon selector Darren Lockyer since Lockyer's Broncos board sacked him.

And Bennett's relationship with Mal Meninga had also blown hot and cold and all shades in between in recent years.

Yet all of that was forgotten as the three men became united by a common cause - sinking the Blues. Each of those three greats did their job with a calmness that seeped through the squad.

 

Wayne Bennett is jumped by the Queenslanders. Picture: Peter Wallis
Wayne Bennett is jumped by the Queenslanders. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Queensland beat NSW and they beat the world.

The crowd of 49,155 was a world record COVID era crowd and there was a sense of joyful liberation about the night.

The heaving terraces, of Caxton St buzzing outside, of snaking beer queues and suddenly made life seem real and raw again as new heroes emerged like young hooking un Harry Grant.

It seemed every man had his own story of despair and redemption.

Only a few years ago Maroon captain Daly Cherry-Evans was a Queensland outcast jeered onto Suncorp Stadium. Suddenly he is a conquering hero.

Irrepressible Dane Gagai, whose relentless attitude runs through the side like an electric current, left Brisbane a heartbroken young man seven years ago when he was axed by the Broncos for having a poor attitude.

 

There's nothing wrong with his attitude when he dons a Maroons jumper and become a totally superior player to the solid, honourable journeyman he is at NRL level.

When Bennett was axed by the Broncos before the start of the 2019 season his career was at the crossroads.

The thought of him coaching Queensland again seemed as remote as the sight of him playing cards with rough nut Cameron Munster in camp.

Yet both happened this year proving again that 2020 was the year when you just never knew what would happen next.

 

Munster drops funny F-bomb: State of Origin: Cameron Munster claimed the Wally Lewis Medal after an impressive State of Origin series, and dropped the f-bomb in a comedic acceptance speech at Suncorp Stadium.

 

Originally published as 'On behalf of the worst ever QLD team, thank you very much!'