State of Origin Top 5: Selection Masterstrokes
Courage isn't just confined to the footy field. It's also shown in the selection room, where faith is thrust in no-names, has-beens and greenhorns.
5. Fatty Vautin's No Names, Game One, 1995
With Super League players unavailable, rookie Maroons coach Paul Vautin was forced to call on no fewer than nine debutants for the first game at the SFS, including Ben Ikin, Danny Moore, Matt Sing, Adrian Lam and Terry Cook.
Given what took place across the three matches, it's fair to say every one of Vautin's choices was a masterstroke but 18-year-old Ikin had the best tale to tell given that the coach thought he was a fan chasing an autograph when he ran into him at the team hotel.
What Ikin and his mates did with their opportunity is part of Origin folklore as Queensland stunned the more fancied Blues with a 3-0 whitewash. No names no more!
4. The first coming of Alf, Game One, 1987
He would go on to play 34 Origins and become one of Queensland's finest but back in 1987 there were plenty who considered little Alf too big of a risk. The Ipswich No.7 weighed just 65kg and stood 167cm when he was called in to partner the great Wally Lewis in the halves.
The Maroons lost the series opener at Lang Park but 20-year-old Alf had the royal seal of approval from the start. "He's about 10 stone and nine stone of that would be made up of heart," Lewis told Darrell Eastlake after the match. "Everyone who watched this game will feel very proud of this little bloke."
3. Blues bet on No.20 and win, Game One, 2006
So bare was NSW's halfback cupboard that Brett Finch was the fourth choice for the '06 series opener after Craig Gower got injured, Matt Orford knocked back the call-up and Andrew Johns declined to come out of retirement.
Finch's Chooks had savoured a win over Souths on the Sunday and the 24-year-old had "a couple of big nights" to celebrate. Come the Tuesday night and Finch was at home on the couch when the call came that would change his life. He'd played one Origin in 2004 and been discarded but this was a shot at redemption and he wasn't about to waste it.
Less than 24 hours after being called into camp and playing in jersey No.20, Finch scored a try and kicked the field goal that iced a 17-16 win.
2. Joey answers Ricky's SOS, Game 2, 2005
Talk to Andrew Johns' Blues brothers and one word stands out – aura. At 31, and having played just one game back after a long injury lay-off following a knee reconstruction and broken jaw, Joey needed every bit of self-belief he could muster when Blues coach Ricky Stuart turned to him after Trent Barrett withdrew.
Johns took control of the camp, took control of the game and took home man of the match honours with one of the most complete performances of his Origin career. The Blues won 32-22 on the back of Joey's magic and then went to Brisbane three weeks later and rode the emotional wave to a series victory.
1. Alfie's back, Game 3, 2001
Wayne Bennett has pulled countless rabbits out of his hat during the past three decades but his SOS to old mate Allan Langer in 2001 must rate up there with his very best. With the series level at 1-1 the drums started beating that 34-year-old Alfie was coming home from Warrington and as Wendell Sailor would later admit, "it was a bit like the prodigal son returning".
Alfie flew in to a rock star reception and immediately put his young team-mates at ease. On the field he was as crafty as ever and even crossed for a try as Queensland flogged NSW 40-14.
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