Craig Fitzgibbon was man of the match in Game III, 2004 after helping the Blues to a commanding 36-4 win.

What Origin Means To... Craig Fitzgibbon

It's Origin III, 2004. The biggest and ugliest from either side of the Tweed have had a good 14 minutes to dust the dandruff from each other's shoulders, rattle the fillings and have the 82,487 packed into ANZ Stadium for Brad Fittler's second Origin swansong foaming at the mouth for more.

Steve Price tucks the ball under his arm, gives the pull string a good yank and begins to whirr away up field, only to promptly wind up on his backside. Shane Webcke takes the pill, and makes a beeline for the sky blue wall ahead, but is cut down before he makes it even halfway there. Ditto Cameron Smith, this time scooting from dummy-half. Mick Crocker. Petero Civoniceva. Both get a dose of the same medicine, from the same doctor as the previous three.

Craig Fitzgibbon has just produced the perfect defensive set of six in less than 60 seconds, cutting down five players who will go on to rack up 126 games in the Maroon jumper in successive tackles. And then hassles Smith into kicking the ball dead on the sixth, just for fun.
 

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It's a measure of the type of man that Fitzgibbon is, one of the most humble to don the sky blue, that he can't recall one of the more remarkable pieces of play to take place in the most brutal arena in Australian sport. And what he does remember speaks reveals even more about the 11-time NSW representative.

"I've been hit in the head too much I'm struggling to piece it all together, and can't remember that one," laughs Fitzgibbon.
"But I tell you what I do remember from that one; I played basically the full game, but I got pulled off with a few minutes to go and I was really upset because I wanted to be out there at the end.

"Gus (coach Phil Gould) hooked me and I was filthy. Gus was great and one of the best things about the whole Origin experience; he'd have you primed for the biggest games of your life and we'd do anything for him, but geez I was filthy with him that day."

The Dapto junior had just made 14 hit-ups and 37 tackles, and booted five from five to claim man of the match honours in the Blues' resounding 36-14 win. And still he wanted more.
 
You don't have to ask what Origin means to Craig Fitzgibbon.

It's evident in the gut-busting 59 tackles in the very next clash, made while Nathan Hindmarsh was physically ill as the pair worked themselves to a standstill in Game One, 2005.

It's evident in the three years spent in the Origin wilderness, spent carrying an underperforming Roosters pack like a Nepalese packhorse, never giving up hope on a return to the game's greatest stage.
 
"I knew I still had some Origin-style games in me still... but when the fortunes of the Roosters struggled and I was playing injured, I was hurt to miss out in '06 and the year after.
 
"I wasn't playing well enough to be picked and I had to be the first to admit that."

Fitzgibbon made a career out of wanting more. One more tackle, a few more minutes, just one more shot. A shot which came his way in 2008, when incoming Blues coach Craig Bellamy threw the Tri-colours veteran another start in the sky blue some 925 days after he last pulled the famous jersey.

"Craig called me and I was just ecstatic, that was a real proud moment to get back in there," he says.

"The two years of not getting picked certainly made me appreciate it just that bit more.

"I think anyone that's been in that situation, you really miss not playing it, and I knew how fortunate I was to be there and that realistically [the series] was going to be a last shot for me so I had to savour every moment.

 "As draining as the Origin experience can be it's just such a wonderful experience and I count myself bloody fortunate to have had another crack at it."