Mal: Maroons 'can go on forever'
All great parties have to end sometime, but Queensland coach Mal Meninga says the Maroons' first series defeat since 2005 does not mean their dominance of the Origin arena is over.
In the wake of the Blues' thrilling 6-4 triumph at ANZ Stadium, Meninga was full of praise for his beaten side, adamant that the legacy of their eight-year reign would ring true for at least a few more years yet.
"What's over, seriously? We've just won eight in a row," said Meninga after the match.
"Let's give this footy team some praise. We've lost this year's series but I mean it's one series in nine.
"It wasn't our night tonight, we had opportunities but at the end of the day we're not going to criticise anybody or make excuses.
"For me I'm just so proud of these players. What they've achieved over the years has been fantastic and will probably never be repeated again. Let's give these guys here a lot of credit."
Despite enduring the preparation from hell leading into Game Two, in which star players Daly Cherry-Evans, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater all battled to be fit before kickoff while Josh Papalii and Corey Parker withdrew from Meninga's squad within 48 hours of assembling, one of the state's greatest ever victories beckoned as Queensland clung grimly to 4-0 lead deep into the second half.
Reduced to just 15 fit men when Brent Tate joined prop Matt Scott (facial fracture) on the sidelines with a suspected season-ending ACL injury, the Maroons doggedly defended their line for five repeat sets before Blues halfback Trent Hodkinson slipped through in the 73rd minute to secure the Blues first series win in eight years.
Meninga argued that while the Maroons had "come within 15 minutes of their greatest ever win," his side still reserved a place in history as one of the greatest Origin has ever seen.
"When you look at the annals of history I believe that quite a lot of these players will be deemed some of the greats of the game," said Meninga.
"History will say that Cameron Smith is the greatest hooker ever. History will say that Johnathan Thurston is one of the best halfbacks ever. Billy Slater; one of the best fullbacks...
"We've had some wonderful players come through our ranks and done their state proud, and more importantly been fantastic role models for the game."
"It hasn't ended by the way. It's not the end of the world, we'll fight another day... We think we can go on forever.
"That's our attitude to things and through the week our preparation was fantastic despite all the disruptions we had with injury.
"But tonight wasn't our night."