Rare opportunity awaits NSW elder statesmen
Next Wednesday night's Stage of Origin II in Sydney represents as good a chance as the Blues have had to win a series over its eight year drought, and for several of the older players in the squad it may be their last chance to win a series.
Of the current Blues side only Luke Lewis, as a young winger in 2004, has enjoyed a series win. Back-rower Anthony Watmough made his debut in Game I of 2005, which the Blues lost, and didn't feature in the rest of the series as the Andrew Johns-inspired Blues hit back to win.
For 32-year-old Paul Gallen, and 30-year-olds Watmough, Robbie Farah, Ryan Hoffman and Beau Scott, there is no guarantee form and injury won't conspire to keep them out of the side next year meaning this year could be their last shot at lifting the interstate shield.
"It's always in the back of your mind, you only get so many chances and as every year passes the end is nearer," Farah told journalists from the Blues camp at Coffs Harbour.
"We're all pushing 30. In Gal's case and Choccy [Watmough]... not many chances left, it'd be nice to win one, especially for those guys as well. They've been through the tough times. They carry that load of all the losses. Some of the new guys that have come in probably don't feel as much hurt as the older guys do. For us older blokes it'd be nice to win one before we retire."
However he stressed he was in no rush to depart the Origin arena any time soon.
"I'm all right mate, I'm feeling good, I've got a couple of years left," he said.
"I'll keep putting my hand up until they don't want me – I don't get guys that retire from rep footy. You play club footy to play rep footy, that's what it's about, to be an athlete and play on the biggest stage.
"For me, as long as I'm playing good footy and I feel like I'm the best option I'll keep putting my hand up. If the day comes where someone will do a better job than me I'll step aside because that's what's best for NSW."
He said the players were excited about the opportunity they were faced with but weren't getting ahead of themselves after losing deciders in each of the past two years.
"We had chances the last two years – it's another chance," he said.
"We've got to learn from what's happened in the past – we had the decider last year that we let slip and even the year before we had the decider up there [at Suncorp] that we lost by a point. Every year people say it's the biggest game in history but they say that every year – it's just another big one."