Country united by one goal
Country Origin skipper and five-eighth James Maloney had his best opportunity to stake a claim for a State of Origin return for New South Wales in the annual clash against City on Sunday.
Yet it wasn't the driving force behind his man-of-the-match performance.
Captaining a representative team for the first time, Maloney – backed by coach Trent Barrett – was simply chasing a win.
Whether it was for himself, his team or country NSW as a whole, Maloney found the importance in winning, cliché aside, was way more important than individual success.
With the Wagga crowd buzzing on what proved to be an absolute corker of a day, and a real atmosphere across McDonald's Park with a 9000-strong sell-out crowd in attendance, Maloney was looking to give back to the local faithful in Country's eventual 12-point win.
"I went in with one goal and that was to win it. We spoke about it leading up to the game that [the win] was our main outcome [we wanted to achieve]," Maloney said.
"Everyone else was going to look at the individuals but that wasn't our focus - we wanted to win the game.
"We did that and I was happy with that. As soon as 'Baz' [coach Barrett] gave me the role of captain, it was something I was pretty honoured about so to be able to lead the boys and get the win made me really happy."
The goal of winning as a team, rather than focus on individual success, wasn't an arrogant byproduct produced by Maloney helping Country hold on to the shield for the third-straight year, with his Country teammates in Paul Vaughan and Dale Finucane backing their skipper.
"It was instilled with us throughout the week that you need to play your part in the team," Vaughan confirmed to NRL.com.
"Everyone obviously has a role to play and if we did so effectively then we'd get the win. The way we played was a great example of that."
Finucane went on to further describe the team mentality that had been instilled in them all week long.
In fact, such is the nature of the Country v City clash where most players from different clubs come together for the first time, Finucane said the relaxed environment set up by Barrett – which enabled the team to come together with relative ease – was a big factor in Country's united goal.
"['Baz'] really reiterated that this week was really working for one another and obviously there are individuals who are in the mix for Origin spots and those things. But without having the win it wouldn't have been possible so he really had an emphasis on team effort and I think it was definitely evident today," Finucane told NRL.com.
"'Baz' is an excellent coach, he's quite relaxed but in saying that it's a very good approach to have I think. We talk footy when we need to talk footy but for the rest of the week it's about relaxing and enjoying each other's company.
"Obviously playing with blokes we haven't played with or met before from other clubs it was really important to do that and get all the boys together."