Origin Knockout: Round 1 (NSW, Part 1)
The Holden State of Origin series is as big as ever, and to celebrate NRL.com is asking fans to name their favourite Origin player of the century so far.
We've selected 64 players – 32 from each state – who have played Origin since 2000 and pitted them against each other in a knockout tournament, and you'll decide which players advance through each round.
Here's the first batch of eight match-ups featuring some of the Blues' best. Make your votes for who should survive to Round 2.
Andrew Johns v Adam MacDougall
Andrew Johns: A three-time Dally M Medal winner, five-time Provan Summons Medal winner, two-time premiership winner, two-time Golden Boot, and with four State of Origin man-of-the-match awards to his name, it's fair to say Andrew Johns has a fair record at the top level. Was kept out of the NSW halfback jersey by Geoff Toovey and Brett Kimmorley at times during his career, but will go down as one of the greats.
Adam MacDougall: The 'Mad Dog' had a long-running rivalry with Queensland winger Wendell Sailor at club level and that extended to the Origin arena as well, with MacDougall claiming man-of-the-match honours opposite Sailor in the opening game of the Blues' clean sweep in 2000. The barnstorming wide man played 11 Origins over four years at the turn of the century.
Ryan Hoffman v Craig Fitzgibbon
Ryan Hoffman: A star performer at a successful Melbourne Storm side and now the Warriors, Hoffman has played 10 matches for the Blues – going from bench forward in 2007 to co-Brad Fittler Medal-winner with Jarryd Hayne in NSW's triumphant 2014 campaign. A class act on the left edge, Hoffman will be a key for the Blues again this year.
Craig Fitzgibbon: Fitzgibbon had won a premiership and a Clive Churchill Medal and represented Australia before he earned his first call-up to the Blues, playing 11 games between 2003 and 2008. The goal-kicking back-rower had a hugely successful run – his first three series at Origin level resulted in three straight wins for the Blues, and by 2004 he had played in five NRL grand finals in six years.
Robbie Farah v Greg Bird
Robbie Farah: It's bizarre to think Robbie Farah was once considered "not an Origin player". Having won the NRL premiership in 2005 in his first full season as a starting hooker at the Wests Tigers, Farah fell one point short of the Dally M medal a couple of years later but didn't get his first shot for the Blues until 2009. His next chance came in 2012, when he replaced the injured Danny Buderus and made a record-breaking 63 tackles, going on to win the Brad Fittler Medal that year, and he's since become the NSW captain and a certain selection for the Blues.
Greg Bird: One of those players who seems to lift at rep level, Bird has won three Man of the Match awards for the Blues (only Andrew Johns and Peter Sterling have more). More impressively, the first two of those awards came with the usual second-rower playing out of position at five-eighth. One of the Blues' toughest competitors and an underrated playmaker.
Danny Buderus v Trent Barrett
Danny Buderus: No player has captained NSW at Origin level more times than Danny Buderus, who led his state in 15 of his 21 appearances. Just the second player ever to win the Dally M medal as a hooker, Buderus led his state to back-to-back series wins in 2004 and 2005 and won the Brad Fittler Medal as the Blues' best in his final Origin series in 2008.
Trent Barrett: Barrett effectively had two careers at Origin level – first playing his way into the NSW and Kangaroos sides in the 1990s after being a star at club level with the Steelers and Dragons, and then after a stint in England returned to the Blues as a veteran while playing for the Sharks. Was Man of the Match in Brad Fittler's final Origin game on home soil in 2001 and captained his state in his final Origin game in 2010.
Paul Gallen v Willie Mason
Paul Gallen: The Sharks and New South Wales captain has been leading from the front in recent seasons, typified by a massive 80-minute performance at prop for the usual back-rower in Game II of the 2011 series. Debuting at Origin level in 2006, Gallen endured the entirety of Queensland's eight-year winning streak before finally leading his beloved Blues to victory in 2014.
Willie Mason: A larger-than-life character on and off the field, having now played for seven clubs across three countries (including a cameo for French rugby club Toulon), it's worth remembering that Willie Mason was once one of the most feared forwards in the game. After scoring a try on his international debut in 2002 Mason joined the NSW side in 2003, gradually transitioning from impact man off the bench to starting prop over an 11-game Origin career.
Steve Menzies v Beau Scott
Steve Menzies: A try-scoring forward with an impeccable record and that unmistakable headgear, Menzies played his first Origin series in 1995 and was still at the top of his game more than a decade later, winning the Brad Fittler Medal as NSW's best in 2006.
Beau Scott: A true hard man of the game with a reputation for making life tough for opponents, Scott actually started his State of Origin career in the centres in 2010 before gradually earning a starting spot in the second row last season. Does all the little things right and hits as hard as anybody in defence.
Anthony Minichiello v Luke Lewis
Anthony Minichiello: The incumbent NSW fullback for the Blues' three-game series streak in the early 2000s (and a player the Blues were missing when the streak ended in 2006), Minichiello was a 302-game legend with the Roosters and one of the great old-school fullbacks of the modern era. A strong ball runner and safe as houses at the back, Mini was prolific at Origin level with eight tries in 11 matches.
Luke Lewis: The ultimate utility man for NSW in recent seasons, Lewis made his Origin debut back in 2004, playing on the wing and at centre that year. He was back in 2009, this time as a bench utility, and the following year he was a starting back-rower. He's only got better with age, and remains one of the first picked in the Blues squad 15 years into his career.
Matthew Gidley v Kurt Gidley
Matthew Gidley: A star right centre best known for his ability to draw wide defenders and release his winger with a flick pass – the kind of pass still being referred to as a "Matt Gidley flick pass" – Gidley was a proven try-scorer in his own right at rep level, scoring five times in 11 Origin matches and 11 times in 17 Tests for Australia. The Blues only lost one series in his time in NSW colours between 2000 and 2004.
Kurt Gidley: Crowned the Blues' best player in 2010 and a five-time captain of his state, Kurt Gidley has divided fans and critics for years but has been regularly called on by rep coaches for his unrivalled utility value. Capable of playing at dummy-half or anywhere in the backline, Gidley played a dozen times for NSW and a dozen more for Australia – even one captaining the Blues from the bench.