June 7th 2000. Newspaper headlines on both sides of the Tweed scream ‘Blue Murder’, as NSW bury Queensland 56-16 in a 10-try romp at ANZ Stadium, with Ryan Girdler becoming statistical napalm for rugby league’s numbers men in the process.
Most points in a match: Ryan Girdler, 32.
Most goals in a match: Ryan Girdler, 10.
Most points in a series: Ryan Girdler, 56.
Most Tries in a series: Ryan Girdler 5 (Lote Tuqiri also scored 5 in 2002).
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With Laurie Daley calling time on his illustrious representative career prior to the 1999 series opener, it was Girdler who stepped up with a conversion attempt in the dying stages of Game Three after Matt Geyer’s second try had tied the scores up at 10-apiece.
Thirteen metres in from the right touchline, with dry ground scarcer than watchable commercial television, the Illawarra junior had seen this one before.
“I went to that game in ’91 in the rain at the SFS when Michael O’Connor kicked that goal from the sideline to win the game, after Mark McGaw had scored down in the right corner,” Girdler recalls.
“It was the same one where MG (Mark Geyer) was running around pretty cranky, I remember that ’91 series because that was the first live Origin game I went to and it was pretty epic to see.
“That was a fair education of what Origin was about and from then on it was a goal to get involved in the series.”
More than just involved, eight years later Girdler took centre stage in front of 39,000 screaming Queenslanders, and the question asks itself: Did Girdler’s mind cast itself back to that fateful night as he lined up his own shot at Origin glory?
“But I’m pretty sure it didn’t cross my mind.
“There was a lot of things going on out there but what I do remember is knowing it was an important kick and it was Loz’s last series, so it was going to have a massive bearing on the result.
“And I didn’t strike it well at all; it was a pretty average miss.
“It was very gettable, much easier than O’Connor’s shot actually, and one I’d consider myself kicking eight or nine times out of 10. Not especially easy, but not hard either.”
The rest as they say, is history. Queensland held on for the draw by the skin of their teeth, with Daley himself throwing the final pass of the match, sending fullback Robbie Ross through the line - only to leave the sodden Steeden behind him.
With just five points separating the two sides across three brutal encounters, the Maroons were awarded the shield courtesy of their victory a year previous, celebrating with near bladder-emptying relief as the Blues players stood dumbfounded.
“'99 didn’t go down well and it was definitely tough watching them celebrate when we hadn’t actually lost,” says Girdler.
“But I think that was the catalyst for me and the rest of the boys with the 2000 series.
“When Junior (coach Wayne Pearce) got us into camp there was a lot more feeling, and a real desire to square that one up, which we ended up doing pretty well.”
And what about THAT night, when Girdler and his teammates poured it on in the first dry Origin match of his eight-game career?
“We were 2-0 up in the series, so the lead-up week was unlike anything we’d ever had before.
“We just enjoyed the week and had a lot of fun and on the night we were able to go out there and play a style of footy that was about as far away from normal Origin footy as you can get.
“And things just came off. I didn’t really do anything spectacular to be honest, I was just in the right place at the right time and the points came.
“It was one of those nights where the whole side was on-song and I was just on the end of it – and that’s the record.
“It’s one that I’m very proud of and a nice thing to reflect upon every once in a while, so hopefully it can hang around for a while.”
Tomorrow - What Origin Means To: Cameron Smith