Monday Morning Halfback: Origin of a champ
There was a very revealing quote from Johnathan Thurston to NRL.com scribe Tony Webeck during the week that revealed a very brief moment of insecurity from a player become one of the greatest ever.
Thurston was recalling the infamous 2006 State of Origin decider, when Queensland were staring down the barrel of their fourth consecutive series loss and things were not looking good.
Thurston had just thrown a pass that was intercepted by Eric Grothe Jr who raced 95 metres to score at the opposite end of the field. The Blues were then awarded a dubious try and had taken a commanding lead.
"I remember walking back with one of those calls and I said to Locky, 'This isn't our night' and he snapped us out of it," Thurston stated candidly.
This was Queensland at their lowest possible ebb.
This was Thurston openly questioning during the heat of battle whether his side could win. It was a startling admission from a player many consider to be the greatest competitor to ever play the game.
It was a rare moment of vulnerability, but that moment was the catalyst for Thurston becoming the player we see today. It was the first moment he felt like he belonged and he has been making NSW pay ever since.
"We had our backs against the wall, a few calls went against us but in true Queensland spirit we fought our way out of it and got the result and we haven't looked back."
It shows even the greats have doubts, but it is a mindset that Thurston has since erased from his very psyche. The no-quit, compete on every single play, chase every last metre champion that Thurston has become was forged in that moment.
The 2016 series might already be over, but NSW find themselves in a similar predicament to that Maroons side of 2006. The Blues eventually put paid to Queensland's eight-year streak, but they have still suffered the indignity of losing 10 of the last 11 series.
Through a combination of design and sheer necessity, the Blues have gone through a transformation in the past 12 months. They have used nine new players since being humbled 52-6 in last year's decider.
Depending on which critics you subscribe to, there could have been many more.
There's no doubting the potential of players like Jack Bird, Matt Moylan and James Tedesco. Tyson Frizell also showed in Origin II that he is more than ready to be an Origin mainstay.
But potential only gets you so far – it certainly doesn't lift the trophy on its own.
Belief is the key ingredient.
It took Thurston until his sixth game to feel like he belonged at Origin level. With that realisation has come an unprecedented run of success for those in Maroons jumpers.
"I think that was probably the first game I thought I had a fair bit to do with it," he said.
"I put 'Tatey' away and also made another line break in that game as well so that game stands out. First ever series win, I was very happy with the way that I performed for the team."
He was 23 years old at that point in his career.
The Blues head into Origin III with three players that could form the genesis to bring parity to the annual interstate battle.
James Tedesco is 23, Jack Bird 21, while Matt Moylan is 25. It is time for this crop of Blues players to find out if they belong at Origin level.
There's no doubting their potential, but as we've learnt from one of the all-time greats it all starts with belief.
We'll learn a lot about these players at full-time on Wednesday.
Boyd Cordner called NSW coach Laurie Daley before the Roosters' heartbreaking loss to the Eels in hopes of getting a call up for Game Three, but was overlooked.
"I gave him a call and said I was sweet to go if he needed me but obviously the boys that are there that have had some good match fitness under their belt and they totally deserve it so I understand where he's going with that," Cordner told NRL.com reporter Chris Kennedy.
"I would have loved to have played but obviously having no games under my belt it's totally understandable and the boys that have been picked have been in some really good form so they totally deserve it."
It would have been a big call to pick Cordner after not having played a game since injuring his toe in Game One of the series. But Cordner was the Blues' best in that game and was awarded players' player after suffering the injury in the first half while scoring his team's only try of the match.
Cordner instead lined up for his club side in the Telstra Premiership on Friday night – five full days before the 13 July interstate contest – and showed what he's capable of, scoring an opportunistic try, making one clean line break and terrorising the Eels' right edge defenders with his potent edge running.
Sharks swimming in depth
The Sharks were missing five players on State of Origin duties against a team desperately clinging to a top eight position on their home turf. It was a game not many expected Cronulla to win despite a winning streak of 12 matches.
Without Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, James Maloney and Jack Bird, many thought their winning run would end. But there is undoubtedly a lot of belief in the Shire at the moment, and the players who came in didn't want to let their teammates down. They defended like a team possessed and then made the Panthers pay at the other end of the field to win comfortably 26-10.
This is one serious football team.
The minor premiership is in their grasp, but there is only one trophy this club wants to lift and nothing short of that will be good enough in 2016.