What Origin Means To: Glenn Lazarus
It's the legend that started it all.
Arthur Beetson, 35 years old and showing the wear and tear that comes with a lifetime in rugby league, and perhaps a small indulgence in the beer and pie trappings that come with it, pulls on the Maroon jersey for the first, and only time.
Big Artie huffs, he puffs and brings the house down as he belts Parramatta teammate and close friend Mick Cronin. All because The Crow was wearing a different coloured jumper.
The pair sit next to each other on the flight back to Sydney the next day, having irreversibly changed the fabric of the game. They've just given birth to 'mate against mate', the kind of line a sports marketer can grow fat and retire off of, and a decade later Glenn Lazarus is the concept's pin-up boy.
Hard to imagine a bloke who tipped the scales at 115 kilos and was dubbed "The Brick with Eyes" as an advertisement for anything other than maybe a pair of Lowes footy shorts, but no-one quite embodied the idea of teammates putting aside club loyalties for the sake of interstate glory during the '90s quite like Glenn Lazarus.
Every year when the frosts started to pack the bite of a starving pit bull down in his home town of Queanbeyan, and the locals in his adopted city of Brisbane began complaining about the mercury dropping below 20 degrees; Lazarus would enter the Origin arena to be greeted by some very familiar faces.
Langer. Walters. Renouf. Hancock. Gillmeister. Gee. Carne. Sailor. Another Walters. They'd all be there. Always at least four or five, sometimes up to nine. All trading out the splash of gold from their maroon and white Broncos strip, while Lazarus threw out the wardrobe completely for a racy sky blue number.
Men he'd won premiership rings with. Men he'd spend every waking minute with, for seasons at a time. Men who wouldn't talk to him if he and his 'other' mates, that weird lot from south of the border, had got one over them.
"I used to take a fair bit of pleasure in walking into the Broncos dressing room and just sitting there, knowing there were eight or 10 guys that were filthy on you," laughs Lazarus.
"They'd lost and you knew they were just dying to say something.
"But they never did because they knew there was just no comeback to the fact we'd beaten them."
Lazarus was a mainstay of a NSW golden period during the early to mid-'90s, when they dominated the Sunshine state to the tune of four series wins to two between 1990 and 1996, and drank from the victor's cup on 11 of his 19 forays into interstate battles.
But what about when the Blues lost, and the big man had to face up to the music of Langer and Walters in the Broncos sheds? This is after all, the same Ipswich connection that rang the phones of various St. George identities in the wake of the 1993 Grand Final, when the Dragons had been downed 14-6 without breaching the Brisbane try line, to serenade them with a ditty composed entirely of the one repeated lyric; "Have St. George scored yet?"
"It was very painful, I can't say too much more than that to be honest. [Fellow NSW and Broncos teammate] Chris Johns was the only one I'd look forward to seeing some days.
"I'm just thankful I played in a period where NSW was pretty successful, because I couldn't imagine playing for the Broncos during the period where they've won eight in a row.
"Could you imagine Alfie? There'd be hell to pay."
And living in the lion's den come feeding time, when Origin would send the locals just that little bit madder than usual?
"That was quite daunting," admits Lazarus.
"When I first came up and was with the Broncos they loved me, and I was accepted in Brisbane.
"But then as soon as those teams were announced, once I was playing for the Blues living in Brisbane, they disowned me."
It's a lesson Lazarus perhaps should've seen coming, given the tale he recounts when talk drifts to his first game for the Blues in 1989. His memory of the score line, a 36-6 Mal Meninga inspired drubbing at the hands of the Maroons, is suspiciously absent, dwarfed by the recollection of the Lang Park crowd.
"They just bayed for NSW blood," Lazarus says of the 33,000 Queenslanders packed into The Cauldron.
"The first game of '89, it was quite an eye opener to see the hatred of us in their eyes. And I got a full appreciation of how hard it is for NSW sides to go up to Suncorp and actually win games.
"In those days they used to have terraces at the ends and there used to be quite a few up there as you can imagine.
"There were a few NSW supporters walking around the ground and all of a sudden they got showered with beer cans and Christ knows what else, and I just thought 'they don't appreciate us up here.'
"At the end of the day that motivated me and it motivated the players, they appreciated the hatred for us and the only way to get back at them was to beat them there.
Now about this motivation Glenn, exactly how far were you willing to go to keep that Origin shield in NSW's keeping? What we're really asking is; did you ever have a Beetson-Cronin moment to call your very own?
"I always had the adage that if it was me standing between the try line and one of my Broncos teammates I'd do everything in my power to make sure they didn't cross it. I did that as best I could.
"I never thought to cheap shot any of them, and I never did and never received one either, but I certainly hit them as hard as I bloody well could."