Steve Menzies went from one extreme to the other in his State of Origin infancy – losing his first series 3-0 before experiencing a winning clean sweep a year later.
The champion second-rower played for NSW 20 times, debuting in 1995 and finishing up in the representative arena after 2006.
Fresh from a trip to Adelaide where Queensland defied the odds to prevail 18-14 in the opening game of this year's series, Menzies spoke to NRL.com about some key moments in his Blues career and why the current team can fight back.
Legend Q&A: Steve Menzies
Do you see any similarities between your debut Origin series in 1995, when the Paul Vautin-coached Queenslanders claimed a shock 3-0 win, and the current one so far?
It's a long time ago. There would be some similarities and I suppose there are always underdogs ... They [Queensland] always go back to that series. But anyone can win any contest. There's favourites and there's underdogs.
But with the number of debutants – I'm not sure how many there were in '95 – from that perspective, for sure.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
What was it like when you first played Origin – did it live up to your expectations?
It's another level of rugby league. I played a grand final that year ... it was all those types of big games. It's a huge arena and the old saying is the more experience you have in that, the better you handle it. It lived up to all those expectations.
After losing your first three Origins, you won the next five matches. What was that turnaround like?
We won 3-0 in '96 and we won the next two in '97. That's a pretty good run. [The win in '96 felt] amazing. Especially after the majority of guys had played the year before and it was a tough thing to go through, to lose 3-0.
To win 3-0 – to win a series regardless is good, but to go through and do it like that was massive.
People always talk about the difference in Origin, the step-up in intensity. Can you pinpoint what it is that makes it so combative?
I just think the passion, the rivalry between two states ... That probably underpins the whole Origin [concept].
There's obviously rivalry at NRL levels, but every year you don't play the same team in semi-finals and finals. Origin – it's the same team you play every year, so it has that rivalry and that passion.
What was your favourite moment as a Blues player?
Winning the series 3-0 in '96 was pretty special. I was involved in Finchy's field goal [Brett Finch in 2006], I was on the field at the time. Just individual moments – I scored a couple of tries. I was a part of a few series – '03 [as a reserve], '04, '05 – that were a pretty special group of guys. All of those stand out.
I read a story on the Northern Beaches Sports Tribune about how you 'created' Brett Finch's famous moment by taking out Craig Gower at training. Can you run me through that?
I felt bad for Gowie, but it was the final evening session at the stadium [before the game]. Gowie was the halfback and I just went to cross him, to drop under him. I slipped and took him out. He went down grabbing his ankle, tweaked his ankle and he couldn't play.
We were all devastated. They called Finchy in, I think he eventually got in [to camp that night] at 10.30 or 11. Who knows where he'd been and how many beers he'd had.
He comes out and pots that field goal from 45 [metres] out. He doesn't tell people, but I pretty much made him! If I don't take Gowie out, then Finchy doesn't become an Origin legend.
Relive the final moments of Origin I, 2006
So he hasn't thanked you for it yet?
Not publicly – I would like it publicly! He does to me, he knows that. To this day I call him Field Goal. Nah, look, it's one of those things – I feel bad for Gowie when I tell the story. It's all a bit of fun.
You were part of the last Blues team to complete a three-peat in 2005. Do you have faith that the current side can do the same from 1-0 down?
Definitely, they did it last year. I thought they controlled the [first] game reasonably well. Queensland took their chances and they had a little bit more energy. We never really looked too uncomfortable defending, which is a positive.
I'd love to be there during the week, the boys are going to be super focused and there's only one option which they have – to go and win next Wednesday and then roll the dice up at Suncorp, game three. They definitely have the squad, the self-belief to do it.
They've got the talent to do it. The opportunity to come back again from 1-0 down is big. But I think with Freddie [Fittler] at the helm, it's an exciting opportunity.
Your final series was in 2006. Did you have any inkling about what Queensland were about to achieve in the years ahead with eight straight series wins?
We nearly won '06 – we had a pass and [Darren] Lockyer scooped it up [to score for the Maroons].
No, you don't [have a feeling]. I think you can go through their team, the players they all became – it'd be hard to predict that. It was just one of those things. A team just forms and gels and you've got some amazing players that the [NSW] boys were up against.
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