I reckon we saw something very special at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night…
The result of Origin II might not have pleased the majority of the 52,272 spectators packing out the stands but even the most one-eyed Queenslander would have to admit that the NSW outfit that beat the Maroons 26-nil was a superb side. Just how good, is a question worth debating.
Joey Johns went so far as to call them the best NSW team he has ever seen. That might be the case, but how would they stack up against the best side that Queensland has produced?
When you talk about best-ever Maroons, inevitably names like Wally Lewis, Alfie Langer and Gene Miles come up, but to compare them to the current NSW players is impossible because they played in such different eras in terms of fitness and preparation.
The 2021 Blues are fulltime professionals who spend far more time in the gym in one week than Wally and Alfie would in an entire season – if not an entire career. Played under the current “six again” rules the “old-timers” would be at a huge disadvantage.
By the same token it wouldn’t be fair to cherry pick an “all-time best-of” Queensland team to go up against the current Blues. In choosing the team that has outscored the Maroons 76-6 with a game to play so far this series, the NSW selectors have been restricted in picking from players available at a certain time and the Queensland team that they are compared to should be selected under the same conditions.
For that reason, I have chosen what I consider to be the strongest team that was fielded during the Maroons’ record-breaking run of 10 series wins from 11 starts and put them up against the Blues side from Game I of this year’s series. That Queensland team is the side that won Game III of the 2011 series by 34-24 at Suncorp Stadium - Fullback: Billy Slater; Wingers: Darius Boyd, Jahral Yow Yeh; Centres: Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis; Five-eighth: Darren Lockyer; Halfback: Johnathan Thurston; Props: Matt Scott, Petero Civoniceva; Backrow: Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Cooper Cronk, Corey Parker, Jake Lillyman, Ben Hannant.
The thought of that side going up against the current Blues is simply mouth-watering. Running through the names I can’t help thinking that the packs would cancel each other out, leaving it to individual brilliance to break the deadlock.
Quick as Damian Cook can be from dummy half, give me Can Smith’s game management any day. As for Greg Inglis marking Tom Trbojevic and Justin Hodges facing up to Latrell Mitchell, I honestly can’t split them. The same with the wingers and fullbacks.
Time and again the Queensland spine of Smith, Thurston, Cronk and Slater got the Maroons over the line, but in the speed of Josh Addo-Carr the Blues have a trump card of their own.
All of which could bring us down to a sudden death field goal and, given it was the last of his 36 Origin matches, I reckon it would be only fitting if Darren Lockyer scored the winner in a classic.
What do YOU reckon?
AGREE: The current Blues are a very good team but they’ve only won one series. Let’s see them win eight on the trot like Mal Meninga’s Maroons did and then we’ll start talking about all-time greats.
DISAGREE: The 10-from-11 Maroons had the advantage of sticking with the core group of players year in year out. In a one-off match the current Blues, would wipe the park with them.