Defeat has never tasted so good for NSW Blues
Tariq Sims and Tyson Frizell held the State of Origin shield as Damien Cook poured beer down its wooden face into the mouth of Angus Crichton at the base.
Defeat has rarely tasted as good as it did in the NSW dressing room after Wednesday night’s State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium.
The Blues were naturally disappointed to lose the match and miss their chance to complete a rare series clean sweep but they were still happy to be Origin champions for just the second time in 13 years.
With NSW coach Brad Fittler blooding 13 Origin rookies in the series, 11 of whom played on Wednesday night, most of the Blues had never seen the shield - let alone had the chance to hold it.
Players took turns posing for photos with it, while sharing the moment with partners, parents, siblings and children.
Long-serving - and long-suffering - officials and supporters did the same as the shield was passed around the room.
The introduction of so many new faces has created a bond among the players.
When the Blues last climbed the Origin mountain in 2014, the players were outspoken in their confidence about repeating the feat next season.
These players have done the same but as Fittler thanked the players for their efforts and for buying into the culture and standards he had created, he told them the 2019 Blues would again be picked on form.
The message was simple - the series-winning players chosen this year needed to continue to perform for their Telstra Premiership clubs.
"It is a very close bond that we have developed over the last few weeks and that has definitely shown on the field," Cook said.
"I'd love to be here again next year, and for a long time, but Freddy picked the side on form so you have just got to make sure you keep playing well for your clubs."
Dragons prop Paul Vaughan said NSW's success had been built on defence and there was a belief among the players that they would improve the longer they played together.
"Overall it was a great series and it was a great all-round effort," Vaughan said. "In the first two games, probably the biggest thing we can take out of both games was our defensive effort. In both games, Queensland had the majority of the ball and we just kept turning them away.
"Then, when the boys got their opportunities they took them. I think that goes to show that if we had the ball and took our opportunities we could score points so the boys are in good spirits."
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NSW captain Boyd Cordner said he would have preferred to have been presented with the shield after the Blues secured the series by winning Origin II at ANZ Stadium but the players still deserved the opportunity to celebrate their achievements in Brisbane.
"You’d always like to do it after a win, but at the same time we have got to realise how hard we’ve worked to win this series, and all that hard work and dedication and sacrifice that we went through to win 2-0, we’ve got to celebrate it because we know how hard it is to win a series," he said.