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Luke Ricketson is crunched during game two at Brisbane's ANZ Stadium.

The Origin arena is a place where you never give a sucker an even break.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, NSW's Luke Ricketson recalls the time he felt sympathy for a Queenslander - and paid the price. This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

Origin is famous for intensity - the fact you don't get a spare second to think. But in 2002, I actually had a moment where I felt protective of Justin Hodges.

The mistakes he made in Game Two of the 2002 series are part of Origin folklore now - and for 'Hodgo' they're just a rough patch in a great career - but at the time, I knew things were tough for him.

He was going through a few difficulties early on during his time in Sydney.

NRL Classic: State of Origin III, 2002

Everyone else in the Blues team was baiting him hut I knew Hodgo was a pretty wild cat so I just let him be.

Leading into the game, everyone knew the blokes that were a bit on edge. And Hodgo was one of them.

He had a pretty indifferent start at the Roosters and they thought he was a bit of an easy target.

Hodgo had some brain explosions on the field and I could have jumped on the bandwagon and sledged him too, but I knew what he'd been going through.

I wasn't a big sledger anyway, so I just cut him some slack.

But it probably came back to bite me in the end, with Queensland hitting back and winning that second match after we smashed them in the first.

The Blues celebrate a try.
The Blues celebrate a try. ©NRL Photos

They then scored that late try through Dane Carlaw in the decider in Sydney to draw the series. That was shattering ... it left all the boys feeling so hollow.

You've put so much into it over six weeks, but you end up with no result and no reward.

The trophy headed straight back to Queensland and we had to sit there and watch the Maroons celebrate like they'd won the series. That cut deep.

We thought we'd won and it was all over for us after Jason Moodie scored his second try. But Queensland never gave up.

I remember the ball being kept alive.

I was on that edge and I came across pretty hard to try and stop anything that came back on the inside.

But Dane got one-on-one with Moodie and he put the big fend on him to run off and score. It was almost like slow motion. I remember going back under the posts and there wasn't really much said - we were all just gutted.

Justin Hodges had a tough initiation to Origin.
Justin Hodges had a tough initiation to Origin. ©NRL Photos

I believe a big reason why Queensland won was that big Gordie Tallis was just "on" in that last game.

He had a huge rage from the moment that he crossed the white stripe.

Gordie sent a message pretty clearly that if you are going to play the game at that level and you get in his way, you are going to get dealt something.

Gorden Tallis in action for the Maroons.
Gorden Tallis in action for the Maroons. ©NRL Photos

Poor old Brett Hodgson was the one that copped it with that 'rag doll' tackle over the sideline, but you felt like anyone who got in Gordie's way would have got the same treatment.

We also read the sign in the crowd at Stadium Australia calling Gordie's mum a 'rig'. You could tell that it had made the whole hatred between the two states worse.

Gordie made a point that he wasn't going to stand for it and it certainly made him more aggressive on the field.

It's why Queensland won and we were left to ponder what might have been. And it was just another reminder of the biggest lesson we learned - Queensland never give up.

- 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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