A sea of blue wigs has made ANZ Stadium something of a Holden State of Origin graveyard for the Queenslanders but the XXXX Maroons have made a move to mobilise their own fans with the launch of the 18th Man campaign.
Maroons coach Mal Meninga and back-rower Sam Thaiday were flanked by the Queensland players named to represent their state in Game One of the 2015 Holden State of Origin Series – including 18th man Dylan Napa – as details of the new fan engagement were released.
All away supporters who have bought into dedicated Maroon bays for the opening two games of the Series in Sydney and Melbourne will receive an 18th Man supporter's shirt and wig but the 18th Man concept will stretch to include members, those who attend home or away games, fans who wear Maroon with pride and those who participate in the grassroots levels of rugby league throughout Queensland.
Inspired to come up with the concept after a visit to 2014 NFL champions the Seattle Seahawks, Meninga said that is was integral to the success of the Maroons that the fans felt very much part of the experience.
"We've got a team of 17 that run on in every Origin game and obviously our supporters and fan base is very important so we've given it a name – the 18th Man – and now the members, supporters and fan groups will come under the same banner," said Meninga.
"Whether we're away or at home the supporters do make a huge difference, particularly our fans up here in Queensland. They cheer at the right time and yell out the 'Queenslander' call when we're doing it a bit tough and the players do react positively to it."
As the Maroons endeavour to win back the State of Origin shield with two games away from their spiritual home at Suncorp Stadium, Thaiday said the visible support of Queensland fans in the stands at ANZ Stadium and the MCG will be a big boost.
"We are travelling away from home where our huge supporter base is here in Queensland so the more people we can get supporting us down there wearing the shirts and wigs it helps that much having the crowd cheering us on," Thaiday said.
"The boys are behind it, I'm behind it and big Malcolm is behind it too."