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Paul Harragon: The hurt that drove Chief to Origin glory

NSW suffered a 3-0 whitewash to Queensland in the 1995 State of Origin series. Blues forward Paul Harragon was humiliated by the loss to the rank underdogs.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, Harragon describes how the embarrassment of '95 inspired the team the following season. This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

Paul Harragon: Redemption in '96

The 1996 Origin series actually gave me the most satisfaction of any I competed in.

I remember finishing that series and feeling like I could finally relax, get on with it and erase that 1995 memory of losing 3-0.

There was a lot of hurt from '95. I mean, that '95 series is a whole story within itself.

We'd gone from losing one game and thinking it was the end of the world, to losing three in a row.

Paul Harragon on the charge in 1996.
Paul Harragon on the charge in 1996. ©NRL Photos

The pain from the series defeat in '95 was burnt into us.

That's the thing about Origin that Phil Gould used to say - it's not like a normal game where you get next week to make up for it.

I just couldn't stand the thought of losing the last series 3-0. Every day it used to bug me that I was involved in that. We were caught with our pants down, with a makeshift Queensland Origin team beating us.

So for us, it was something that was very hard to live with.

The momentum from that came out in '96 and with everyone at full strength, we dominated and won 3-0.

Blues forward Steven Menzies is congratulated after scoring in the 1996 series.
Blues forward Steven Menzies is congratulated after scoring in the 1996 series. ©NRL Photos

And the redemption for that was that everyone was back in the team, Super League and ARL all playing, so it was on to see who was really the best in that era.

That's why '96 was so pleasing, because we kept our concentration and we were army-like in our preparation.

We were there for business. We didn't care about going out for dinner too much or having a beer, because the only way to stop that horrendous burning feeling in your stomach was to just get into the game and win the series. So we were very disciplined from memory and had no big nights out.

"Gus" Gould was also instrumental in the turnaround.

The biggest praise you can give a coach is that he gets the absolute best out of you. For that particular role, Gus did that wonderfully and he certainly got the best out of me. He did that by telling you tactically what you had to do, but he sprinkled it with emotion.

That created a wonderful environment, very insular, and you ended up thinking that Origin was the centre of the universe.

Nothing else really mattered for those 10 days that you were in camp.

Origin goes to another level - you know it's the biggest of the big - and this is the one time that you have got to shine. It's a lot of expectation.

Phil Gould talks tactics at Blues training with Paul Harragon in 1995.
Phil Gould talks tactics at Blues training with Paul Harragon in 1995. ©NRL Photos

It's very easy for your mind to grab that thought and churn it over and over. Before you know it, you can be worn out mentally and the game has got you.

That's why a lot of boys don't excel in Origin.

Then you get the blokes who deal with that and play well they are pretty special types of players.

It's why the whole '96 Blues squad felt special too, because we had overcome our pain to make a statement on the game's biggest stage.

- as told to Matt Logue

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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