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Steve Mortimer and the Blues celebrate their first series win in Origin.

As part of a series looking back at four decades of State of Origin football, revisits the 1985 series which featured NSW breaking through for their first series victory under the Origin format.

Queensland were set up to succeed in the early years of Origin. After hosting the one-off games in 1980 and 1981 the Maroons played two out of three in Brisbane for the next six years - and Game I was always at Lang Park.

And like clockwork Wally Lewis raised the shield. But this new era of losing to Queensland didn't sit well with Blues coach Terry Fearnley or captain Steve "Turvey" Mortimer and neither home ground advantage nor referee Barry Gommersall could stop the Blues 

The seeds of NSW's historic victory were sown the previous season when Mortimer was named captain for the dead rubber in Brisbane, he said later he learned a lot from the Blues' 22-12 upset victory.

Game One,  Blues 18 bt Maroons 2 at Lang Park

The NSW Blues' tilt at history got off to the perfect start despite heavy rain, powered by one of the great debuts in Origin history and a crucial tactical change.

There had been concern that NSW's debutants might struggle but centre Michael O'Connor thrived under the pressure. The former Wallaby scored all of the Blues' points with two tries and five goals from six attempts.

"I'd done a lot of practice with my goal-kicking and during play I just made a point of sticking close to Brett Kenny," O'Connor told "It paid off because he set me up with two tries!"

Extended Highlights: Maroons v Blues

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Just as crucial was restricting the Queenlanders to two points, NSW's tactic of rushing up and pressuring Maroons playmaker Wally Lewis working a treat.

Relentless defence with the likes of Steve Roach, Pat Jarvis and Peter Wynn leading the way held the Maroons try-less for the first time in Origin.

Despite O'Connor's points blitz Wynn's efforts were recognised with the man of the match award.

Game Two, Blues 21 bt Maroons 14 at the Sydney Cricket Ground

NSW were greeted by a packed SCG and more rain when they went home with the opportunity to make history.

Tries to Chris Mortimer and hooker Benny Elias saw the Blues shoot out to a 12-0 after 16 minutes but Queensland refused to lie down despite serious injuries to lock Bob Lindner and fullback Colin Scott and clawed their way to a 14-12 lead.

With the forwards continuing to hammer away O'Connor again kept his cool under pressure, kicking a penalty goal and field goal to edge NSW back in front 15-14.

Full Match Replay: Blues v Maroons - Game 2, 1985

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When Wally Lewis attempted a field goal of his own Mortimer charged the kick down and the Blues, inspired by their captain's intervention, put the game away when Brett Kenny dummied his way past Lewis and scored a minute from full-time.

The victory triggered scenes of joy once the whistle went, producing some of rugby league's most iconic images as Mortimer kissed the muddy SCG turf and was chaired from the field. 

The brilliant halfback left on the ultimate high, announcing his retirement after the match.

Game Three, Maroons 20 bt Blues 6 at Lang Park

The double motivation of avoiding a whitewash and avenging the perceived Test snubbing of so many of their players produced a signature Maroons performance.

Manly's Des Halser stepped into Steve Mortimer's massive boots and lock Wayne Pearce was elevated to the NSW captaincy.

The Queenslanders were breathing fire and they turned that passion into points. Winger Dale Shearer crossed for a double and fellow winger John Ribot also picked up a try as did second-rower Ian French.

Full Match Replay: Maroons v Blues - Game 3, 1985

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Fiery Maroons prop Greg Dowling gave Blues and Australian coach Fearnley, who had dropped four Queenslanders before an 18-0 loss to New Zealand, a gobful after being replaced.

The Blues were well held, replacement Steve Ella scoring NSW's only try and Michael O'Connor converting his only attempt at goal.

79. Steve Mortimer - Hall of Fame

Play of the series

Steve Mortimer had been preaching a never-say-die, do-it-for-your-mates attitude all series and when the trophy was on the line he walked the walk.

A bulldog in spirit as well as club colours, Mortimer laid it all on the line to smother Maroons great Wally Lewis's bid to level the scores with the Queenslanders trailing 15-14 late in Game II.

Lewis secured his Origin legend status by engineering a succession of victories for Queensland and the sight of their halfback and captain refusing to allow him to write another chapter in that tale of dominance gave the Blues the lift they needed to seal the deal.

Blues great Michael O'Connor.
Blues great Michael O'Connor.

Best player

Blues centre Michael O'Connor was a point-scoring machine over the first two games of a low-scoring series and it was his almost flawless kicking as much as his work with the ball in hand that meant so much to NSW.

O'Connor was the top point-scorer for the series with 29 points, equal top try-scorer with Dale Shearer on two, kicked 10 from 12 plus a field goal to give NSW the lead for good in the series-deciding second clash. 

The quote

"I still get hairs on the back of my neck rising when I think about it," second-rower Noel Cleal told The Sydney Morning Herald in later years. "Turvey didn't ask us to have the same amount of passion as Queensland, he demanded it. It wasn't a siege mentality. He'd insisted on that mateship and that bond between us - that we were never going to get beat. There was a lot of glue in the joint. Turvey demanded that we were one group."

Extended Highlights: Blues v Maroons

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Unsung hero

Dragons prop Pat Jarvis was part of a monumental defensive effort to lay the foundations for the Blues' series win.

Jarvis was almost rewarded for his toil with a try in Game II at the SCG when he crossed after backing up an Eric Grothe break but the officials ruled that the winger had been dragged into touch before getting his pass away.

TV replays revealed the touch judge and ref had got it wrong and years later Jarvis was still lamenting the loss of what would have been his only Origin four-pointer.  

Origin Rivalries: Wally Lewis v Brett Kenny

The following year

The Blues went one better in 1986, recording the first-ever State of Origin whitewash at the expense of rookie Queensland coach Wayne Bennett.

Peter Sterling teamed up with Brett Kenny in the halves, Royce Simmons claimed the hooking role from Ben Elias and both Simmons and Sterling justified their selection by claiming man of the match awards in the opening two wins.

Michael O'Connor was again top point-scorer (22) and equal top try-scorer with Shearer (two).


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