O'Neill's Origin moment hits home
Origin matches are decided in an instant but it wasn't until after full-time that debutant Justin O'Neill was able to reflect on the role he had played in getting Queensland off to a winning start to the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series.
With his team trailing 4-2 and on the back of a period of New South Wales dominance late in the first half a Queensland shift to the right brought O'Neill into the action.
Johnathan Thurston decided to run the ball on the last tackle, a decoy run from Matt Gillett created space for Darius Boyd sweeping around the back who offloaded to O'Neill who in a split second shovelled the ball onto winger Dane Gagai under pressure from Josh Mansour who had charged in from his wing to shut it down.
The pass hit Gagai in the bread basket and he dived over to score in the right-hand corner for what would be the final points scored in the match.
As is the case in all things Origin that passage of play will be replayed for many years to come as the one that earned the Maroons victory at ANZ Stadium and one that O'Neill will hold dear from his first appearance in the Origin arena.
"I was a little bit shocked but I sort of knew it was coming," O'Neill said of his fast hands for a crucial try assist.
"To come away with the win as well made it pretty special to set up a try in such a tight game.
"I didn't realise until after the game and it was such a tight game. At the time there was that much going on in my head, my lungs were screaming and I was just worried about the things I could do on the field.
"But then after the game I reflected on the game and I was like, Oh wow, that was pretty cool to set up that try. We kind of really needed that I guess."
O'Neill has spent his second week in Queensland camp with Cowboys teammate Kyle Feldt training outside him on the right wing with his right-side partner from Game One in Gagai confined to treatment for an ongoing quadriceps injury.
Gagai and O'Neill were Junior Kangaroos teammates in 2010 – Gagai and Feldt played together in 2011 – and the pair also represented the North Queensland Marlins representative team coming through the junior ranks.
Whether Gagai is passed fit to play or Feldt gets his opportunity to debut for the Maroons, O'Neill believes the two alternatives are equally as attractive.
"I feel like I'm pretty lucky, either choice is pretty great," said the 25-year-old two-time premiership winner.
"'Gags' scoring that great try in the first game and the amount of hit-ups that he took and the workload he got in the last game was unreal and then I've got 'Feldty' who I play week in week out with and who I know can definitely do the job.
"I feel like I'm pretty lucky, whoever I have I'm pretty confident with."
Brought in as cover himself for Darius Boyd back in 2013, O'Neill says that his preparation for Game Two has been smoother given the experience of Game One which he admitted exceeded all expectations in terms of its speed and toughness.
"I went into Game One not really knowing what it was going to be like," he said.
"I had in my mind what I thought it would be like. I knew it'd be fast, I knew it'd be physical and the only game I could compare it to was the grand final last year, how fast it was and how tough it was.
"As I ran out there I was on adrenaline for the first 10 or 15 minutes and then after that the body just felt everything. The lungs were screaming, the legs were almost gone in the first half.
"I came in at half-time and just soaked it up and had a breath because it was definitely fast and physical and a lot more than what I thought.
"I've probably been a little bit more relaxed this week and enjoying the week and really getting involved in training.
"It helps having played a game just knowing what the game's going to be like so there are not too many things that are unknown to me."