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Graham Lowe shares a laugh with his victorious Queensland team.

Wally Lewis and Mark Geyer famously stood toe-to-toe in teeming Sydney rain, threatening to trade punches but settling for four-letter not-so-sweet nothings.

Instead Geyer lined up Queensland's coach, Graham Lowe, and swung for the stands after the Kiwi mentor served up a few choice words in the SFS tunnel.

Lewis meanwhile had just unloaded half a dozen uppercuts on his childhood mate, NSW star Michael O'Connor.

And next game "the hit" was ordered against the Manly star by Lowe, his own club coach, the call to take out the Blues sharpshooter delivered from a North Shore hospital bed.

These are the inside stories of Origin II, 1991 – fables befitting an all-time Origin favourite.

'I was shaping up like I could go a few rounds with Mark Geyer'

Prior to one of Origin's most relived moments, Queensland had emerged from game one with a tense 6-4 victory at Lang Park.

And the legend has it that Geyer had been given the green light by NSW officials – supposedly told he would not face repercussions for any damage, legal or otherwise, that he wrought – the Blues backrower saw red as a result.

Geyer's elbow to the head of Maroons hooker Steve Walters right on half-time prompted an all-in brawl and his famous stand-off with Lewis.

Referee David Manson repeatedly putting himself between the pair as they shouldered and slung barbs the whole way off the Sydney Football Stadium, made for truly iconic footage.

If the cameras had been able to follow them up the tunnel, they would have captured Queensland coach Graham Lowe doing the same with very different intentions.

"It hasn't come out that much but going up the tunnel on the way to the dressing rooms it almost broke out again," Lowe told this week.

"I found myself in a massive shouting match with Mark outside the dressing room.

"That was truly as close as it came to an all-in brawl.

"Only Wally's coolness under pressure and experience stopped that. I remember Wally grabbing me by the coat collar and dragging me back into the dressing room.

"He was the mediator then because I was saying things in that tunnel, questioning Mark's sanity, and doing things that I'd never come close to in my career.

"I was shaping up like I could go a few rounds with Mark Geyer, and so was he, and he did wind up at one point but thankfully missed his swing. That's the definition of insanity from me."

Often forgotten in the aftermath is Geyer's Origin career ended that night after a three-week suspension for an elbow on rookie Maroons fullback Paul Hauff.

Lowe kept swinging as well in his post-match media conference.

The iconic photo of Wally Lewis and Mark Geyer during their Origin II confrontation in 1991.
The iconic photo of Wally Lewis and Mark Geyer during their Origin II confrontation in 1991. ©NRL Photos

"Mark Geyer that night, he was on a mission and I loved his style of play, the aggressive streak in him made him my style of player," Lowe recalled.

"After the game in my press conference I called him a 'lunatic' and I woke up the next day and felt for his family.

"I regretted that comment, it wasn't fair to label him that way and I've always wished I hadn't said it."

'Oh Snoz, I didn't know it was you!'

At the time of Geyer's whack on Walters, NSW held a slender 8-6 lead courtesy of a try to Chris Johns and an O'Connor penalty goal.

And before Lewis and Geyer eyeballed each other, the Queensland great landed a few decent blows of his own.

"It wasn't Wally and MG having the stink," O'Connor explained.

The King, Wally Lewis kicks the ball downfield.
The King, Wally Lewis kicks the ball downfield. ©NRL Photos

"I got in there with the rest of them to break it up right after Geyer got Walters. And next minute I've copped about four or five uppercuts from Wally.

"Everything breaks up and Wal looks at me and goes 'Oh Snoz, I didn't know it was you!'

"We had played against each since we were kids, we were playing age-group games for NSW and Queensland all the way through as mates, and we'd toured plenty of times overseas as well. But that's just how it was then."

'You've missed easier ones for me so now you'll nail this one'

Few Origin series to this day have been as tense or tight as the '91 edition, with just two points deciding each of the three classic contests.

At Lang Park in game one, O'Connor had missed a tough conversion attempt that would have levelled scores late in what proved a close Queensland win.

"And even then, I said to Brandy [NSW fullback Greg Alexander], 'you take it'," O'Connor told

"And he goes 'no, no, you take it'. We were still working it out in the middle of a game. We just didn't place a lot of emphasis on the goalkicking - and in hindsight it really was just so important."

With Kiwi Matthew Ridge taking over the goalkicking duties from O'Connor for the Sea Eagles, the NSW centre had drifted away from regular practice.

Michael O'Connor tries to fend off Willie Carne in 1991.
Michael O'Connor tries to fend off Willie Carne in 1991. ©NRL Photos

Until midway through the Origin series, when he took up daily kicking sessions at Vaucluse – "finding the balls that went over the cliff wasn't exactly fun" – and Bondi.

"There was a broken window down at the Bondi Surf Pavilion, that was me. I smashed it the first thing in the morning, this bloke's started yelling at me and I've just taken off. Sorry for that one."

All of which came to the fore when O'Connor stood outside a bustling Mark McGaw.

Taking a 15-metre Ricky Stuart cut-out pass – no easy feat with the old leather balls and rain coming in sideways – the Sharks strongman muscled his way over in the corner for a 12-12 deadlock just before full-time.

And up stepped O'Connor for one of rugby league's most famous shots at goal.

"If you watch it back, I didn't take a long time over it," he said.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic jumping in the air when the try is scored, and then I'm thinking 'shit, I've got to kick this bloody thing now!'.

Blues centre Mark McGaw had a knack of scoring tries in big moments.
Blues centre Mark McGaw had a knack of scoring tries in big moments. ©NRL Photos

"I've grabbed the ball, stepped back and kicked it pretty quickly. It came straight off the sweet spot. My concern was it wouldn't have the distance but as soon as I hit I knew it was going straight over."

Watching from the stands without any doubt over where O'Connor's then-club coach would send the ball, was Lowe.

"On the sideline, kicking into the rain and wind. And I remembered him missing easier kicks the previous year at Manly," Lowe laughed.

"So as he's lining it up, I'm thinking 'you so and so, you're going to kick this, you've missed easier ones for me so now you'll nail this one'. I didn't have the slightest doubt at all he'd kick it."

'Michael dived headfirst into Mal's forearm'

With the series tied up at one apiece and heading back to Lang Park in two weeks time, Lowe and O'Connor went back to work at Manly.

And so started the beginning of the end of Lowe's coaching career due to what was at one point a life-threatening health battle.

"So much happened between game two and three," Lowe said.

Mark Geyer and Benny Elias are jubilant in the sheds after game two of the 1991 Origin series.
Mark Geyer and Benny Elias are jubilant in the sheds after game two of the 1991 Origin series. ©NRL Photos

"I ended up in intensive care with DVT (deep vein thrombosis), that was my second bout of it. We were back at Manly playing against Illawarra down there.

"During that game I felt it coming on in my right leg, I knew what [DVT] felt like, not only did we get thumped, but as we were coming back on the bus I remember saying to Michael, 'I think I'll be going straight to hospital'. Sure enough I did.

"I was in Royal North Shore hospital ICU a few weeks later, doing Queensland's first team meeting over the phone with the team all crowded around Wally's room, crowded around the phone to listen to me."

When Lowe did get back into Queensland camp, "with a chair and a bloody walking stick", the Kiwi coach duly put club loyalties aside.

O'Connor's boot had proved the difference in Sydney, and loomed as a key factor in game three once more.

"Throughout the week I remember saying to Mal Meninga, 'how much do you reckon you weigh? Maybe you should remind Mick about that weight difference'," Lowe said.

"Michael was captain for me at Manly and a good friend, and I knew that if Mal could belt him, it'd make life a lot easier for Queensland. My recollection of that one is Michael running and diving headfirst into Mal's forearm."

Maroons coach Graham Lowe and captain Wally Lewis with the Origin shield in 1991.
Maroons coach Graham Lowe and captain Wally Lewis with the Origin shield in 1991. ©NRL Photos

O'Connor did indeed wear one from the Immortal centre, copping a badly broken nose early on in Origin III.

Meninga ended up kicking the only goal of that match in much the same sideline fashion as O'Connor did in Sydney.

With both the Blues and Maroons scoring three tries apiece, Meninga's late toe-poked nudge from out wide secured a stunning 14-12 win and 2-1 series triumph.

In the aftermath, Meninga controversially avoided suspension for the high shot on O'Connor, a bid for him to be cited at the judiciary withdrawn by the NSWRL after he phoned the Manly star to express his remorse.

"Mal apologised to me and I got on with it, I wasn't too happy about it of course but he was just following his coach's instructions," O'Connor said.

"It was high stakes and I kicked 0/4 after copping that hit. Ultimately I think it was the difference between winning and losing, had I been able to see properly I would've kicked a few I think!

"I looked like the Elephant Man afterwards, but that was just the game at the time."

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