Blues centre Matt King: "If NSW win four in a row, I don't think Queensland go onto win eight in a row."
In the early hours of July 6, 2006, amid all the celebrations and relief, the thought was never there.
As players, staff, sponsors and supporters gathered at a Melbourne team function in the aftermath of Queensland's miraculous 16-14 win in the decider, no one knew only hours earlier they had created the start of something.
The start of a dynasty.
An eight-year dynasty that would reshape State of Origin forever.
State of Origin Game III 2006
Only 24 hours earlier, several members of the Maroons' squad were facing the prospect of staring down the barrel of being axed for good.
After three series losses to NSW on the trot, the Maroons had 80 minutes to save the careers of three names.
Maroons skipper Darren Lockyer and long-time servants Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva had been given the ultimatum – win the series or relish the final moments of your career in Queensland colours.
'Adam Who?' joins Dad's army
The Maroons were down 1-0 in the series after a stunning field goal in extra time to NSW halfback Brett Finch in game one. It left the Maroons reeling and on the back foot for the remainder of the series.
Price, an 18-game veteran at the time, had just seven wins in his Origin career.
"The media went on to say Queensland were Dad's Army, the forward pack was too old and NSW forwards were dominant," Price told NRL.com.
"Petero and I were 33 and 34, we were under immense pressure. Mal came in and said to me, Locky and Petero that basically if we don't win the series then that will be the last we play in.
"He stuck with us for game two but was very honest, which is how Mal is and you're appreciative of that. But it was no secret, we were desperate.
"We lose game two and the series was over, our careers at that level were as well."
Price recalled a conversation with Maroons legend Trevor Gillmeister in the lead-up to game two that gave the pack a different focus in their own backyard.
"NSW had a high offload count in the first game so I remember him saying to us to hit below the rib cage but above the belly button," Price said.
"And if you hit them hard enough and they'll piss their pants because there's no protection and that's where their bladder is.
"We had Nate Myles and Dallas Johnson who were really good in those target areas. That was a game plan we went with and we attacked them in game two with our defence."
Game, set, match, Maroons. By a 24-point margin.
Two-try hero Adam Mogg was loving every minute of his Origin debut.
He was called in late to replace Greg Inglis, who succumbed to a hamstring injury before the second game.
As a 28-year-old rookie, he became the butt of all jokes to continue the NSW media's trend of Dad's Army.
"And with all due respect to them I wasn't one of the most famous players getting around but it was still an opportunity to play for Queensland in front of a full house at Suncorp Stadium," the former Canberra Raiders utility back told NRL.com.
"I was confident I wouldn't let anyone down despite what the press were trying to pre-empt."
The series alive, and the Maroons one last chance to save the embarrassment that was pending.
An unlikely venue in Melbourne, Etihad Stadium (previously Telstra Dome), was the stage.
Former NSW representative Matt King, who called Melbourne home during those days at the Storm, treated the match as a home game.
But the reality was, Queensland had the slight upper hand in the crowd department south of the border.
"Looking back at how the series panned, we got out of jail in game one, they smoked us in game two but leading into game three we still had a feeling for the clear majority of it that we were the dominant team," King told NRL.com.
"Personally, it was a big deal, it was my first game in the centres after playing my first five games on the wing and with the game being in Melbourne, being a Stormer and being able to have a big input on the promotional sides of things was cool.
"The game was set up for us to hit back and take the series."
A 4-4 half-time scoreline was new territory for both states after they had led each in 14-0 the two previous matches.
But two quick tries in the first eight minutes of the second half extended NSW's lead to 14-4 and left the Maroons in some familiar unwanted territory.
"One thing that sticks out was NSW's last try which wasn't a try, it was a knock-on," Mogg said.
"They got a bit lucky but I remember Locky was pretty calm after that and said to just keep playing."
King could empathise with Mogg's statements.
"I don't remember the details of that but we shouldn't have got that given so you could say we were lucky to even be in that situation," he said.
"Maybe it might've made us play differently if we knew we were only ahead by less?"
King's questioning of "what if" has been played over in his head since the final moments of the 2006 decider for more than a decade.
After all, he was expected to receive the ball from Brett Hodgson out of dummy-half but the wayward pass bounced into the hands of Lockyer, who raced away to score against the odds and give the Maroons an unlikely series win.
"I remember the ball like it was in slow motion, I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch it," King said.
"My regret lies in could I have done more, could I have gone harder at the footy? That's where my greatest regrets are – did I do enough?
"As a team, we were shell-shocked, thinking how the hell did that happen.
"It's always talked about that it was an amazing moment for Queensland and it was, I tip my hat to them.
"But if NSW win four in a row, I don't think Queensland go onto win eight in a row. It might've been seven, but not eight. It was such a sliding doors moment."
Price said Queensland's second try to Brent Tate had given them enough belief they could pull off a miracle.
"Locky and JT were kicking into the corners and NSW pushed the pass, it was as simple as that," he said.
"Locky was good enough, he put himself in that position and I'm glad he picked it up rather than Pet and Tunza [Tonie Carroll] because he's got a bit more speed.
"You talk about sliding door moments, things would've been so different if we don't win that game."
Mogg added the Lockyer moment had set up Queensland's never-say-die mentality for the future.
"Locky was just playing every play, every second, and got the bounce," Mogg said.
"It's that calming influence to be prepared to grind it out for 80 minutes. That washed over everyone and set Queensland up for the next decade.
"I think it took NSW a number of series to work out how to win after that. They just could not work it out and were beating themselves mentally."
Such is the closeness of scheduling between Origin and NRL matches, players were left to debrief and celebrate in a short space of time before moving back to play for their clubs.
Little did they know the match would be the start of Queensland dominance for a further seven series.
"It's gross to think about and heartbreaking because that was the start of a tough time for the Blues," King said.
"But it was an unbelievable game to be a part of but the post-mortem was heartbreak.
"They [Storm teammates] were dudes who broke my heart and then two nights later we're pulling our boots on and playing alongside each other and then had a beer with like everything was normal again."
Price said the Maroons reflected on their efforts following the NRL season in the first campaign under Meninga's reign.
"We got together for a couple of nights with our families and partners on the Gold Coast at the end of the season," he said.
"Mal knew how significant the series was and how big it was so really wanted to make a thing of it rather than it just be another game.
"It started to bring the importance of what Origin means to Queensland and the game.
"He started doing things that helped breed that importance. It was one of those Origin series that will go down in folklore."