Blues once seemed unbeatable: Thaiday
There was a time not all that long ago when Sam Thaiday wondered whether anyone could beat New South Wales.
A bustling young forward from North Queensland, Thaiday was selected time and again for Queensland junior representative teams and year after year they would suffer hidings at the hands of the Blues reminiscent of pre-Origin days.
He lost an under-17s interstate game in 2002 40-16 to a NSW team boasting the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Ashton Sims and Keith Galloway and then after moving to Brisbane to join the Broncos sat in the stands at Suncorp Stadium for the next three years as the Blues chalked up series win after series win.
But rather than engender a defeatist attitude that the powerhouse from the south could never be overthrown, every loss suffered by his state inspired Thaiday to work towards reaching that arena and helping turn the tide.
"I can always remember being on the losing end of a lot of games wearing a Queensland jersey," Thaiday told NRL.com.
"That's why I've always relished the chance to put the Queensland jersey on here and play with these lads because we have had such a lot of success.
"I remember watching a few games at Suncorp Stadium actually because we used to get tickets through the Broncos pretty cheap. I sat pretty much everywhere at Suncorp Stadium, I sat in the rafters at one game too.
"I definitely went home kicking tins knowing that Queensland had lost another series and I wanted to be part of it one day and hopefully have a bit of success in the Origin arena.
"Eleven years later I'm lucky enough to still be here and still be a part of such a great and successful team."
Thaiday was one of seven Maroons debutants in Game One of the 2006 series along with the likes of Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Nate Myles – men who have all been integral members of Queensland's unprecedented run of success ever since.
With the Blues seeking a fourth consecutive series win and doubts growing over some of the senior members of the Maroons, a Brett Finch field goal in Game One put the Origin careers of a number of players squarely on the precipice to oblivion.
No one was safe, not even legendary figures such as Darren Lockyer, Petero Civoniceva and Steve Price, with the 30-6 win in Game Two serving simply as a stay of execution until the series was decided in Melbourne on July 5, 2006.
Current Queensland captain Cameron Smith described the week as the most pressure he has ever felt leading up to an Origin game and at 14-4 down less than 10 minutes from full-time fear of the unknown was in danger of becoming a reality.
But they somehow found a way and Thaiday is adamant the nature of that win 10 years ago has stayed with the team for the 10 series that have followed.
"We had a real belief that we could turn things around," said the 31-year-old ahead of his 28th Origin appearance.
"We had a lot of doubters that thought we had too many old players, we had doubters thinking that we debuted too many young kids throughout that series so it was good to quieten the critics and I think that's what set us up to be the team that we are now.
"We showed a real grit and determination as a Queensland team to win that third game.
"We were struggling there towards the end of the game and 'Locky' (Darren Lockyer) pulls a rabbit out of the hat and we go on to win the game.
"It just showed a never-say-die attitude and a determination to make sure that we left that field with a victory."
The history of Origin all swung on an instant when Darren Lockyer swept through on an ill-directed Brett Hodgson pass to score beside the posts, Thaiday for one grateful that for the first time in his time as a Queensland representative that lady luck was on his side.
"There have probably been a few of those moments throughout this whole 11-year campaign where passes could have gone differently and bounces of the ball could have gone differently," said Thaiday.
"I still think that with the champion side that we have there's still that little bit of luck that has to go your way and maybe that was the little bit of luck that turned New South Wales' dominance around and played into our favour and has continued ever since."