Why Maroons' 12-year era of Origin domination is a myth
NSW players will have the added motivation on Wednesday night of knowing they can officially erase five years from Queensland's era of State of Origin domination.
The Maroons have triumphed in 11 of the previous 12 series, but the number of matches won by the two states in the past five years is actually now seven apiece.
Should the Blues complete a rare clean sweep of the Holden State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium, the record books will favour NSW 8-7 in the 15 matches played since 2014.
It's a statistic which will surprise many of the game's most ardent followers but one which Blues officials are acutely aware of.
According to those associated with NSW during that period, the Maroons domination ended when Trent Hodkinson scored the only try of the second match in the 2014 series to halt Queensland's unprecedented eight-year reign.
However, successive 2-1 series wins by the Maroons in 2015, 2016 and 2017 created the perception that 2014 was simply a glitch for the great Queensland side.
Whether that is true or not, the results of the first two games of this year's series have put the Maroons back to where they were before winning the 2006 series – in disarray, and with Origin careers on the line.
The timing of Cameron Smith's representative retirement less than two weeks before the teams were named for Origin I ensured a chaotic build up for Queensland, who were already trying to adjust to life without Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
Darius Boyd followed suit after being overlooked for Origin I, while the Maroons decided against blooding Kalyn Ponga when Billy Slater was ruled out of the series opener and then played him for 52 minutes off the interchange in Game II
Ponga, Michael Morgan and captain Greg Inglis are now injured, while the decision to dump Ben Hunt as halfback and bring in Daly Cherry-Evans is confusing and reminds NSW fans of the plan to switch Darren Lockyer to fullback after Queensland lost the opening match at ANZ Stadium.
Cherry-Evans last played for the Maroons in the 26-18 loss at the MCG in game two of the 2015 series but has now been recalled for a game which is likely to determine his Origin future.
If the Manly skipper can help Queensland to prevent NSW's first 3-0 whitewash since 2000, he will again be considered the long-term Maroons halfback – as he was before the 2014 series loss.
However, a loss on Wednesday night may put paid to Cherry-Evans' Origin career, with Gold Coast's Ash Taylor already being touted as his replacement.
Hunt's demotion to the interchange bench suggests the Queensland selectors have lost faith in his ability to steer the team around, despite the St George Illawarra playmaker being arguably the Telstra Premiership's most consistent halfback this season.
The Maroons brains-trust had similar doubts about Lockyer in 2006 and coach Mal Meninga suggested he should revert from five-eighth to fullback after the opening game of the series.
Meninga had just taken over as Queensland coach and the Maroons were staring down the barrel of a record fourth successive series defeat after a field goal by stand-in NSW halfback Brett Finch condemned them to a 17-16 loss in the opening game.
It seems remarkable now, but there were concerns about Lockyer's scrum-base combination with Johnathan Thurston, who was playing just his second Origin series.
After introducing seven Origin debutants in the opening game, Meninga bought in another five new faces for game two, including Adam Mogg as a replacement for the injured Greg Inglis.
Despite winning 30-6 at Suncorp Stadium to keep the series alive, the Maroons were in disarray ahead of the decider after further injuries ruled out fullback Karmichael Hunt, centre Justin Hodges and winger Steve Bell.
Lockyer's 74th-minute try to snatch victory in Melbourne changed the course of Origin history and for the next eight years Queensland enjoyed the longest winning run since the first series in 1982.
With just one series loss between 2006 and 2017, many consider the Maroons era of domination to be 12 years but the Blues are seeking to dispel that notion by winning on Wednesday night.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of NRL.com or the NRL.
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