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The Blues celebrate their Origin victory.

As part of a series looking back at four decades of State of Origin football, revisits the 2018 series when rookie Origin coach Brad Fittler led his beloved Blues to just their second series win in 13 years.

The Maroons had managed to bounce back from a shock loss in 2014 and win three straight series going into the 2018 series.

With just one win from the previous 12 series, the Blues felt the need to shake things up a bit.

Enter favourite son Brad Fittler, a coach whose quirks and idiosyncrasies were seen as perfect for the three-match nature of State of Origin.

The most capped player in NSW history, 'Freddy' captained the Blues to a series victory in 1996 and had been regarded as one of the best ever players to wear the sky blue.

Queensland, meanwhile, was going into its first series without long-time legends Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston, who had both retired from representative football.

Game One, Blues 22 bt Maroons 12 at Melbourne Cricket Ground

Fittler immediately left his imprint on the team, handing out debuts to an astonishing 11 players.

Queensland were trying to navigate a series without Smith and/or Thurston for the first time since 2002, whilst star fullback Billy Slater was a late withdrawal from Game I due to a hamstring issue, forcing coach Kevin Walters into a re-shuffle.

A 31-year-old Greg Inglis was handed the first captaincy of his Origin career, North Queensland's Michael Morgan was slotted into fullback and Brisbane stalwart Andrew McCullough was awarded his first Origin jumper as Smith's replacement.

Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons

A ferocious kick-off return from Blues enforcer David Klemmer got things into gear before an 18th minute James Maloney penalty goal opened the scoring for NSW.

The first four-pointer of the clash came courtesy of a scoot from livewire dummy-half Damien Cook that set up James Tedesco next to the posts before Queensland answered with a 90-metre Valentine Holmes intercept.

The Maroons took an early second half lead when Dane Gagai collected a Ben Hunt grubber in the right corner to score before the Blues answered right back with a pair of quickfire tries; Latrell Mitchell bagged a debut four-pointer before Tom Trbojevic did the same off a pinpoint kick from Maloney.

A Tedesco line break laid on the final try of the game through another debutant Josh Addo-Carr, wrapping up a 22 points to 12 victory for the Blues.

The Fittler Era had begun for NSW.

Game Two, Blues 18 bt Maroons 14 at ANZ Stadium

NSW had a rare shot at clinching a series win on their home soil after more than a decade of heartbreak.

The only change made by Fittler was a forced one; debutant Matt Prior came into the side for the injured Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

The Maroons welcomed back Slater, while Knights prodigy Kalyn Ponga was added onto the bench for his Origin debut.

Gagai was denied the opening try of the game in the eighth minute, with the replays showing he grounded the ball simultaneously to dragging his leg into touch.

Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons

Less than five minutes later, a nice pair of hands from Inglis sent Holmes in untouched down the left flank in a move that may have given many Blues fans may have had déjà vu from all the Origin games in recent memory that had featured Inglis setting up tries for his outside man.

A fleetfooted Gagai went streaking down the right touchline to help stretch Queensland's early lead to 10 before Addo-Carr took full advantage of a Maloney cut-out ball to put NSW on the board in the 25th minute.

On the half-hour mark, Blues skipper Boyd Cordner was knocked off his feet by Hunt whilst in pursuit of a Maloney grubber.

Video officials deemed that Cordner was denied first crack at the loose ball and awarded a penalty try, in what would prove to be a momentum-shifter.

Early in the second half, Mitchell got one up on his opposite number Will Chambers when a short-side, fifth-tackle Tedesco scurry sent him over the stripe.

A little over ten minutes later, Chambers responded with a four-pointer of his own to keep Queensland's prospects alive.

Not long after, a fresh-legged Ponga sliced through some tired NSW before being dragged down a metre short of the try-line.

The following play, halfback Hunt looked to pick apart a frantic Blues defensive line with a deft grubber into the in-goal, however, centre James Roberts took out Maroons second-rower Gavin Cooper off the ball, prompting referee Gerard Sutton to send him to the bin for 10.

Minutes later, captain Cordner took a Dylan Napa hip to head and was taken from the field.

Down a man and with the skipper in the sheds, NSW had a little over five minutes to hang on and deliver the state a famous Origin victory.

They handled several Queensland attacking raids, before forcing a knock-on in the final minute of the game.

As the hooter sounded at ANZ Stadium and a wave of sky blue erupted in the crowd, the Blues piled on top of one another to celebrate a deserved victory.

Game Three, Maroons 18 bt Blues 12 at Suncorp Stadium

Queensland brought Daly Cherry-Evans back into side for Game III, whilst NSW debuted Dragons back-rower Tariq Sims.

The Blues had not completed an Origin clean sweep in 18 years, whilst the Maroons were looking to send skipper Slater out a winner, with the Storm fullback having announced his retirement from representative football.

With Inglis missing, Slater was named captain for the first time in his Origin career.

Holmes scored Queensland's first try for the third time in as many games with an intercept off a Tedesco pass.

Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues

Ten minutes prior to halftime, Maloney was sin-binned for illegally shepherding Slater off the ball in a try-scoring situation.

Whilst down to 12 men, the Blues put on a pair of first half tries – the first a 90-metre intercept for Tom Trbojevic and the second a short ball from Cook to Tedesco on the stroke of halftime.

In true Queensland fashion, the Maroons clawed their way back into it; first through a second try to Holmes in the right corner before Cameron Munster laid on a try for Cherry-Evans up the middle to give Queensland the lead back.

The Maroons weathered a late NSW barrage to avoid the whitewash and send Slater out a winner.

Slater was controversially awarded Man of Series, despite appearing in just two games in a losing effort.

The Blues successfully ushered in new head coach Brad Fittler with a spirited trio of performances, with rookies Addo-Carr, Trbojevic, Mitchell, Nathan Cleary and Angus Crichton enjoying the first taste of their success at Origin level.

Play of the Series

2018 was the first time fans witnessed Tom Trbojevic at State of Origin level and he took the opportunity with both hands.

Trbojevic flies high to score

His debut try came off a bottler of a cross-field kick from James Maloney, in which he leaped above his opposite number to snatch the ball in mid-air and plant it down.

This would not be the last time Trbojevic would treat fans to an aerial masterclass in Origin.

Best Player

Slater may have been controversially awarded the man of the series award but Blues fullback James Tedesco was extraordinary in his first winning series.

Tedesco scores Blues' first try in Origin I

Tedesco crossed for a pair of tries and had a hand in several more, whilst racking up run metres and line breaks like it was nobody's business.

The future Blues captain would prove himself as a specialist Origin performer, whilst talk of "world's best player" began to follow him.

Few modern-day fullbacks have possessed the athleticism, skill and drive of Tedesco.

The quote

"Some of these young guys playing their first series they probably don't appreciate the significance of this. Hopefully, it's the start of something." – James Maloney after NSW secured just their second series win in 13 years.

Unsung hero

Whilst his brother's brilliance may be plastered all throughout highlights packages, the unglamorous work of Jake Trbojevic should be applauded.

He was everywhere defensively, missing very few tackles and always putting his hand up to do the dirty work.

The Sea Eagles lock's stoic, no-nonsense demeanour was always made for Origin and he proved exactly why in this series.

The following year

The Blues would follow up their 2018 heroics with a renowned victory thanks to an 80th minute Game III miracle courtesy of Tedesco.

After years of unlikely Queensland victories, NSW got one back on them when Blake Ferguson tiptoed down the right touchline of ANZ Stadium before finding Tedesco back on the inside to seal a series win on the stroke of fulltime.

The Blues would win their first back-to-back series in 14 years and all but spell the end of the Maroons dynasty.

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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