Origin Knockout: Round 3
After two rounds of NRL.com's Origin Knockout poll, 48 NSW and Queensland greats have bitten the dust and only 16 remain. Now's your chance to vote on which players should make the final eight in the battle to be named the fans' favourite State of Origin player of the 21st century.
Darren Lockyer v Shane Webcke
Webcke is the last prop standing in Origin Knockout, having taken out fellow Maroons' greats Steve Price and Matt Scott in the opening two rounds. But can he challenge his old Broncos, Queensland and Australian Test captain? Lockyer has played more State of Origin games than any other player and is one of the most successful rugby league players of all time, and will be a warm favourite in this match-up.
Andrew Johns v Danny Buderus
Two Knights legends go head-to-head. Johns is already an Immortal, a three-time Dally M Medal winner, and the hero of two Newcastle premierships – but does he have the edge over Buderus at Origin level? Johns made more Origin appearances (23 to 21) but Buderus made more as captain (15 to six) and has actually led the Blues more times than any other player. Johns led the Blues to a series victory in 2003 but Buderus did the same in 2004 and 2005. Who gets your vote?
Cameron Smith v Allan Langer
Darren Lockyer sits atop the list of most-capped Origin players with 36, and these two Queensland greats share second place on that list with 34. Smith is on track to go past Langer next week and Lockyer in the long run, having led the Maroons throughout their most successful period, but Langer is a cult hero and cemented his place in Origin folklore by leading his state to victory in the 2001 series after being plucked from the obscurity of the English Super League at age 35.
Steve Menzies v Anthony Minichiello
Two of the Blues' most popular stalwarts, Menzies advanced to the third round after toppling the Blues' triumphant 2014 Origin captain Paul Gallen while Minichiello knocked out star centre Matthew Gidley in Round 2. Minichiello was the incumbent fullback for NSW's three-year series streak in the early 2000s, while the evergreen Menzies won the Brad Fittler Medal as NSW's best player in 2006 – more than a decade after making his Origin debut.
Johnathan Thurston v Billy Slater
Two of Queensland's current greats face off in this blockbuster, with Thurston having seen off the challenges of Matt Bowen and Justin Hodges and Slater having conquered Karmichael Hunt and Cooper Cronk. Both JT and 'Billy the Kid' have been fixtures at the highest level for state and country, with Thurston keeping Daly Cherry-Evans out of the Queensland and Kangaroos starting sides and Slater holding onto the fullback spot at rep level despite the presence of Greg Inglis. Will the game's best playmaker or its best fullback get your vote?
Brad Fittler v Mark Gasnier
Gasnier has won the battle of the Blues centres, with Matt Cooper, Michael Jennings and Ryan Girdler having bowed out in the opening rounds, but he comes up against one of the genuine greats in Brad Fittler. The most capped Blue in Origin history, Fittler captained NSW 14 times and won pretty much everything in rugby league – will he take out NRL.com's Origin Knockout as well?
Greg Inglis v Gordon Tallis
A battle of two of the most fearsome players of the modern game, with Inglis one of the hardest men to tackle and Tallis one of the hardest men to be tackled by. Tallis was the barnstorming back-rower who played 20 Origin matches for Queensland from the mid-1990s through to 2003, while Inglis is set to make his 26th Origin appearance next week, having scored 15 tries so far. Both are no stranger to controversy, with Tallis having the rare honour of being sent off in an Origin clash and Inglis having the rare honour of being a NSW-born Queensland hero. Who will make the final eight?
Jarryd Hayne v Nathan Hindmarsh
Two of Parramatta's favourite sons, Hayne has won the Brad Fittler Medal as NSW's player of the series three times, while Hindmarsh has won the Provan Summons medal as the fan's NRL player of the year five times. Hayne was a human highlights reel in Blues colours while Hindmarsh is a no-frills tackle machine. Two stars with two styles, who was the better Blue?