Gone but not forgotten, retired NSW skipper Boyd Cordner has emerged as the inspiration for a Blues outfit hoping to ice a rare State of Origin series-winning game at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night.
Cordner played the last of his 16 Origins in the 2020 series opener and was never sighted again on the football field due to concussion issues after coming off second best in a tackle involving Maroons back-rower Felise Kaufusi in the Adelaide clash.
However, Cordner will be very much present for the Blues ahead of this weekend's Origin II with NSW appearing to adopt a "do it for Boyd" mantra following the workaholic back-rower's emotional retirement last week.
Cordner fought to hold back tears as he told media he had been forced to prematurely draw the curtain on his glittering career that also featured three NRL premierships for his beloved Sydney Roosters at the age of 29 due to repeated head knocks.
The emotion-charged press conference may have been more than a week ago but it was still fresh in the memory of Angus Crichton who vowed to honour former Roosters and Blues teammate Cordner on his NSW return on Sunday.
Head over heart: Emotional Cordner retires from rugby league
After missing the Blues' record 50-6 game one win in Townsville due to suspension, Crichton earned a recall off the NSW bench due to a pack reshuffle forced by a hip injury to prop Jake Trbojevic.
While thankful to NSW selectors after holding out the challenge of Melbourne's Dale Finucane to win an interchange nod, Crichton said his main focus would be to pay tribute to Cordner when he runs out against the Maroons.
"I will play for Boyd every time I pull on the Roosters and the NSW jersey," Crichton told NRL.com.
"I learned a heap off him, about the way he goes about his football and learned a lot as a person.
"He is a great friend and a great captain.
"A player who still has so much to offer our game had to hang up the boots early... it was devastating news."
The man who has taken over the Roosters and NSW captaincy from Cordner – fullback James Tedesco – confirmed the Blues were not only thinking of their ex-skipper ahead of game two, they also hoped to welcome him into their camp which has been relocated to Kingscliff, just south of the Queensland border, to avoid any COVID-19 issues in Sydney.
"He's going to come up hopefully," Tedesco said after the Blues' first training run was completed without incident in the NSW coastal town on Tuesday.
"Obviously it was a really emotional week last week for him. He means so much to the Roosters, the Blues and Freddy (NSW coach Brad Fittler) as well.
"I learned so much off him as a leader and a person, he's been awesome.
"It would be great to join him by lifting the [Origin] shield."
Forever fearless: The best of Boyd Cordner
Tedesco has the chance to pay the ultimate tribute to Cordner by claiming his first Origin series win as NSW skipper on Sunday after the Maroons came from behind to clinch a boilover 2020 triumph.
The Blues have not savoured victory at Suncorp Stadium since game one, 2017 and have never won back-to-back games in Queensland in Origin history.
But NSW will be backing themselves after the series opening 44-point rout.
When asked what it would mean to join Cordner on the list of NSW skippers to claim an Origin title, Tedesco flashed his trademark grin.
"It would be really special. You see the photos every year of the captains holding up the shield and I have seen Boyd do it a few times," he said.
"It would probably be a career highlight if I were to lead the boys and hold that shield up."
Crichton set to start on the bench
Crichton was keen to help Tedesco realise his dream after earning what he believed was a surprise recall.
The Roosters forward thought he had missed his Origin window after being forced to cheer on the Blues from his couch during game one due to suspension.
"I was yelling at the TV, cheering and really happy for the boys that they were able to experience that," Crichton said.
"There was a bit of jealousy there. As much as I was stoked for the boys I was obviously hoping that I was playing but the biggest emotion was pride for the boys.
"I wasn't expecting Freddy to change the team at all but Freddy told me I was on the bench after the Roosters game [last weekend following Trbojevic's injury].
"I am honoured to be back in the side."
Meanwhile, game one man of the match Tom Trbojevic, Newcastle prop Daniel Saifiti and Parramatta battering ram Junior Paulo were on light duties for NSW at Kingscliff on Tuesday as they were eased into training following strong NRL games on the weekend.
Origin II in Brisbane is sold out but tickets are still on sale for game three at Stadium Australia in Sydney on July 14 - get your tickets at NRL.com/tickets.