Queenslander! Queenslander! Queenslander!
From the moment Wayne Bennett’s band of rookies and discards ran out before a roaring 49,155 Suncorp Stadium crowd it felt like the State of Origin pendulum was going to swing back the way of the Maroons – and it may remain that way for some time.
After ending Queensland’s decade of domination by winning the past two series, NSW fell short in their bid to achieve a three-peat by becoming the first Blues team to triumph in a decider at Suncorp Stadium since 2005 and just the third in the concept’s 40-year history.
Now NSW officials must be wondering how long they will have to wait for another chance after a Cameron Munster and Harry Grant double act that left Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy facing a different type of headache if Cameron Smith decides to play on.
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The loss of James Tedesco in the 20th minute after an accidental knee to the head from Josh Papalii was a massive blow for NSW, and the Blues showed courage to push the Maroons to the final whistle, but Queensland played with greater intensity and aggression from the start.
The epic 20-14 Queensland win was a fitting end to a season that all involved will forever remember but hope never to endure again and a victory that will rival 1995 and 2001 in Maroons folklore as their greatest-ever triumph.
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With Bennett blooding 14 debutants across the three matches, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Queensland but the newcomers helped Munster and captain Daly Cherry-Evans deliver the master coach his fifth series win since first taking charge of the Maroons in 1986.
Among them were Grant, who will return to Melbourne next season after a stint with Wests Tigers, Titans-bound lock Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Sydney Roosters prop Lindsay Collins.
Storm centre Brenko Lee began the season with Brisbane Easts and is now a premiership and Origin winner, Corey Allan was the third-choice Rabbitohs fullback until injuries to other stars and Kurt Capewell played from the bench for Penrith in the grand final but started in all three Origins.
The trio, and the likes of Edrick Lee, Xavier Coates, Phillip Sami and Dunamis Lui, only got their chance to play in Origin due to the unavailability of Kalyn Ponga, Michael Morgan, David Fifita, Moses Mbye and Kyle Feldt, while AJ Brimson was injured in Origin I.
Bennett was also a late call-up after an SOS to return for a fourth stint as coach six weeks ago following the appointment of Kevin Walters to the Broncos job but the role is surely his if he wants to continue and South Sydney are unlikely to stand in the 70-year-old's way.
Regardless of who is Queensland coach in 2021, any team with Munster will be hard to beat and Grant appears set to be the Maroons hooker for the next decade after coming off the bench to spark new life into the attack 15 minutes from halftime.
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With Munster turning in one of the best individual performances in a Queensland No.6 jersey, Maroons fans can only ponder whether they would have achieved a series clean sweep if he had lasted longer than three minutes in Origin II.
Munster was the star of Queensland’s 18-14 win in the series opener at Adelaide Oval and he seemed determined to make up for his early departure at ANZ Stadium by dominating in a way that Wally Lewis did in the early years of Origin.
The Storm five-eighth ran the ball 17 times and kicked on another 16 occasions in a masterclass which featured a try assist for Edrick Lee, a hand in another scored by Valentine Holmes, repeat sets, goal-line drop-outs and a one-on-one strip.
Munster at his magical best has Edrick Lee scoring
His role in the lead-up to Lee's try was sheer brilliance as Munster kicked and regathered before grubbering again and after a knock-on by Daniel Tupou on the NSW line he spotted open space on the other side of the field and kicked across for the unmarked winger to scored.
Munster also bought the crowd to their feet by shoving Nathan Cleary in the face after the NSW halfback refused to release his leg while lying underneath him to spark an early melee.
The incident was an example of the intensity and aggression shown by the Maroons, with Capewell gleefully patting Panthers team-mate Isaah Yeo on the back following a knock on after being called on to play out of position at right centre to cover the loss of Tedesco.
Jai Arrow may have taken things too far when he tried to lift Tedesco as he lay prone on the ground, and the match review committee will consider whether the incident is worthy of a contrary conduct charge, but he appeared to be unaware that the Blues captain had been concussed.
The parochial Queensland fans played their part too and the atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium was like an old-school Origin as the world’s biggest live sporting crowd since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic willed the home team to a victory for the ages.
Blues coach Brad Fittler said in the post-match media conference he had no regrets about the make-up of his bench but it would have been a lot easier for him if he had selected Ryan Papenhuyzen on the bench after losing Tedesco midway through the first half and having only forwards on his interchange.
He faces some tough decisions next year to prevent another era of Queensland dominance.
The debut gets better and better for Harry Grant