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'The day I shaved Ogre's head': Jason Stevens

After a clean sweep in 2000, NSW had high hopes of repeating the dose in 2001. But supercoach Wayne Bennett had a special guest appearance planned for the decider, recalls NSW forward Jason Stevens.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, Stevens gives his view on rooming with a monster and Bennett's masterstroke. This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

2001: A state oddity - Jason Stevens

The 2001 series was one of the most bizarre yet enjoyable experiences of my life - rooming with "The Ogre".

Mark O’Meley is one of the funniest and most unusual characters I've ever met in footy - he's certainly not your average front-rower.

But I hold him responsible for me playing below my best in the Origin series that year - because he barely let me sleep!

Full Match Replay: Maroons v Blues - Game 3, 2001

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He snored louder than any human being on the planet and I can still remember many sleepless nights in 2001, staring at the ceiling of the hotel room as Ogre sent zeds out at unbelievable decibels.

I had a few gas problems and tried to get even with him that way but lack of sleep made it an unfair fight.

The guy had some strange habits too!

Mark O'Meley and Brad Fittler celebrate in 2001.
Mark O'Meley and Brad Fittler celebrate in 2001. ©NRL Photos

There was his legendary routine of smearing Dencorub all over his head which he reckoned pumped him up for a big game.

This is one of the great yarns going around and I can confirm it's true.

He also asked me one day to shave his head for him. I felt a little awkward and I made sure I locked the door to make sure none of the boys burst in - but I did it and we shared a tender moment.

We came into 2001 on a high after probably the Blues' most impressive Origin series the previous year when we whitewashed Queensland 3-0 and enraged them with some post-try celebrations.

We didn't do it deliberately to piss them off - post-try celebrations were all the rage then - but they obviously kept it in the memory bank and came out angry men in 2001.

Morale in the camp was great. I remember when they handed out the jumpers. Mark Hughes was on debut at fullback - he got his and growled "About bloody time!" We all got a laugh out of that.

But things got serious on the field very quickly and Queensland brought us back down to earth in game one, thumping us 34-16.

Gordie Tallis was in his element and I remember him destroying us with his wide running. On his day he was almost unstoppable and he was a guy who lived for his Origin footy.

Gorden Tallis tears away from Michael Vella.
Gorden Tallis tears away from Michael Vella. ©NRL Photos

The Blues made changes and Ogre came in for Game Two - and what a debut he had.

He was only 20 but be took it to the Queensland pack in front of 70,000 in Sydney and got us on the front foot.

He even made a big bust straight through the heart of the Queensland forwards to set up a memorable try for Freddie Fittler.

We smashed them 26-8 and we couldn't wait to go to Queensland and settle it.

As we got ourselves ready for game three we heard this rumour Wayne Bennett was planning to bring Allan Langer back from England for the decider.

But it died down soon afterwards and we thought, "No, it can't be right".

Well, sure enough, the morning of the decider we heard "Alf" had flown back from England in secret so we quickly made some adjustments to our game plan.

It didn’t do us much good, though. It turned out to be Queensland - and Alf's - night, as he and his mates ran riot in Brisbane.

Allan Langer scores at Lang Park during Origin III in 2001.
Allan Langer scores at Lang Park during Origin III in 2001. ©NRL Photos

We started all right. Ryan Girdler, who was having a great season and scored a bunch of points the previous series, found a hole out wide early and scored and we thought we might get away with it.

Billy Harrigan was referee and he gave us a caning, especially in the first half, and we used up a lot of juice in defence, which would come back to haunt us later in the game.

At one stage, poor Freddie got exasperated and pleaded to Bill, "Come on mate, give us a go ... please".

Billy just shrugged his shoulders and walked off, I suppose we got more tired and our discipline went and the penalties continued.

It didn't take us long to realise it wasn't our night and that we would be the bit players in a Maroons 40-14 fairytale win.

Alf scored a try to celebrate his return and Darren Lockyer, playing at fullback, loved having him back in the team and cut us to pieces, and that was that.

- as told to Rugby League Week

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