Slater-Boyd united by opinion divided
It was a comparison of two greats of the game happening in real time.
Where there is no awkwardness in pitting players of competing eras against each other, when two equally qualified champions who happen to be friends are vigorously debated for the one position it somehow feels weird to then see both in the same room.
When Darius Boyd – the Maroons and Kangaroos incumbent and Queensland's player of the series last year – was preferred over the returning Billy Slater for Game One, Slater did the modern thing of sending messages of encouragement and support via text.
Eighty minutes later and it is Slater who has supplanted Boyd as the Maroons' No.1 No.1 but any suggestion of the need for the pair to clear the air was merely a figment of our own imaginations.
There was no sinister intent to the conjecture; the rugby league world simply found itself divided by a debate on who is the right man for the job right now.
No one questions that Slater has effectively redefined the way fullbacks play through the course of his 15 seasons in the NRL and nor that Boyd has been the consummate custodian ever since he guided the Broncos to the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
But that's not to say that the endless speculation didn't wear thin.
Ever since Slater made his over-exuberant return against Boyd's Broncos in Round 3 and the pair shared a post-game embrace we have been obsessed by how Queensland coach Kevin Walters could possibly choose a favourite.
For Boyd, at least, it took its toll.
"Sometimes the speculation in the media and the hype around things can take the fun out of it," Boyd said in camp ahead of Game Two. "It's been going since Round 3 since Billy came back.
"I was probably as shocked as anyone to get the nod [for Game One] and I was very happy to get the nod but didn't enjoy the speculation that came with it I guess.
"Bill texted me before the first game and we had a couple of texts to each other and he was really supportive and I really appreciated that.
"We're mates, there's nothing that me or Bill had done or anything, it was all the media and the hype and the fans included in the speculation."
For Slater, reassuming the position he had held for 19 of the 20 previous Origins played up until Game Three of the 2015 series was solely a victory for individual dedication rather than any unseating of the man who had taken his place.
"I understand externally it's been put up as Darius versus myself over the last month but we certainly don't see it that way," Slater said ahead of his 28th appearance for the Maroons.
"I was in contact with 'Darbs' post selection in the first game and even leading into that Game One I sent him a message and wished him all the best and told him how confident I was with him in that position and that he deserved it. That a lot of the chat was unwarranted and he really appreciated that.
"At the end of the day we just want what's best for Queensland. We've been involved in a lot of successful Queensland teams together and once we get out there on Wednesday night and already in the camp it's business as usual."
Unsure that he was even being considered as an option to play at left centre until made aware of a newspaper report, Boyd says that now both he and Slater are back in the Queensland team together that it is imperative Maroons fans come together for the cause.
"Sometimes we focus on things that we don't really need to focus on or there's too much hype and talk around things and it can get a bit disappointing," said Boyd, who will play his 27th straight Origin next Wednesday.
"We need to support whoever is picked whether it's me or whoever they chucked in the side in the first game or this game, ins and outs.
"We want the Queensland media or whoever it is to be on board and support the team so we can go down there and do our best and play our best."