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Balmain trio Tim Brasher, Ben Elias and Paul Sironen.

As part of a series looking back at four decades of State of Origin football, NRL.com revisits 1994, where the current debate about which Blues side was the best needs to include this series.

There has been a lot of debate in 2021 about whether the current Blues squad is the best ever - the 1994 team deserves to be in the conversation.

In the last interstate series before rugby league nearly tore itself apart with three years of civil war over the protracted attempts to introduce a Super League competition, the Blues reigned supreme.

They didn't have it all their own way, losing the series opener after Mark Coyne scored arguably the most memorable try in Origin history, but NSW for the first time overcame a game-one defeat to clinch the series.

Elias intercepts a Langer pass to send Clyde on his way

Coached by Phil Gould, the Blues were trying to win their third series in a row and contained several players who rank alongside the greatest to have worn the sky-blue jersey led by captain Laurie Daley with Ricky Stuart in the halves for all three games.

The pack featured the power and skill of Glenn Lazarus, Ian Roberts, Paul Harragon, Paul Sironen, Ben Elias and Bradley Clyde while out wide, the Blues were spoilt for choice with the likes of Brad Fittler, Steelers duo Paul McGregor and Rod Wishart, Andrew Ettingshausen, Brett Mullins and Tim Brasher.

Queensland were no slouches either with Mal Meninga leading a team featuring the core of Brisbane's premiership-winning sides of the 1990s - Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Steve Renouf and Michael Hancock, with non-stop workers like Steve Walters, Gary Larson, Billy Moore and Trevor Gillmeister fronting up to the star-studded NSW pack.

Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons

Game One, Maroons 16 bt Blues 12 at Sydney Football Stadium

Two years after Wally Lewis last played for Queensland, he had taken over the coaching reins. In 1993 he was unsuccessful and looked like he was heading for another defeat in game one of the '94 series until the very last moment.

Paul Harragon opened the scoring with a controversial try for NSW before Maroons fullback Julian O'Neill responds late in the first half to cut the deficit to 6-4 at the break.

Blues utility Brad Mackay backed up clever work from Fittler and Daley to establish a 12-4 lead with 12 minutes remaining and fans started heading for the exits thinking the result had been sealed.

Queensland got a sniff when Willie Carne scored with five minutes to go before Coyne etched his name into Origin folklore.

Coyne backed a sweeping movement which travelled 70 metres up the field through the hands of most players in the Queensland team before he scrambled through the attempted tackles of Fittler, Stuart, and Elias to score what is known through Ray Warren's iconic commentary as "that’s not a try, that’s a miracle".

Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons

Game Two, Blues 14 bt Maroons 0 at MCG

The Origin series headed to Melbourne and there were fears the fans would not show up to fill the cavernous arena.

Those fears were put to bed when more than 87,000 spectators turned out to see NSW grind their way past the Maroons.

Lazarus registered the only try of the first half when he barged over from close range before McGregor sealed the win to set up a series decider when he backed up a Stuart break for the only scoring play of the second stanza.

Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues

Game Three, Blues 27 bt Maroons 12 at Lang Park

This match was all set up for the Maroons to again defy the odds and celebrate the glorious career of one of their favourite sons.

Future Immortal Mal Meninga, the last man standing from the first Origin match in 1980, had announced this was to be his last game terrorising sky-blue opponents in what was to be a memorable final season for the Raiders skipper, leading his club side to the premiership and then the Kangaroos to a series win over Great Britain.

But his farewell appearance for Queensland turned out to be a nightmare. 

And he had his Canberra teammates to "thank" - Stuart, Daley, Clyde and Mullins were at the forefront as NSW raced to an 18-0 lead in the first half.

Despite cutting the lead to 12 at the break via an unlikely try to prop Andrew Gee, the hosts were never in the hunt in the second half, especially when lock Jason Smith was helped off after suffering a broken jaw in a clash with Roberts.

Elias and Fittler later admitted to booting field goals for fun to rub the win in Queensland's noses as the Blues for the first - and thus far, only - time in Origin history completed three straight series wins. 

Play of the Series

It didn't win the series for the Maroons, but it did stop a whitewash - there's really no choice other than 'the miracle' try. Anyone who knows Origin knows about this try - Queenslanders have dined out on it for years. In 2019 there was a luncheon in Brisbane to celebrate the try's 25th birthday.

Daley explodes of the left foot

Best player

Captain Laurie Daley. This series win was his third in a row for NSW. He was a hard man to tackle when he ran with the ball - and with the ball in hand Daley was always highly dangerous. He wasn't a bad defender either because he could see what plays were coming. 

Laurie Daley and jubilant NSW players.
Laurie Daley and jubilant NSW players. ©NRL Photos

The quote

"I would still talk about that try four times a week. Whenever I meet someone new they bring that try up. Around Origin time they show it and are always talking about it. I'd certainly like a dollar for every time I've talked about it," said Coyne, when interviewed by Rugby League Week magazine in 2012.

Unsung hero

Glenn Lazarus. Forwards don't usually get the recognition when Origin awards and medals are thrown around. But Lazarus had a Midas touch - he was part of five series wins by the Blues (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996). But he scored a try in Game II in 1994 - he only scored two in 19 games - but his four-pointer in this series helped rescue the series for the Blues.

The following year

Former Maroons Origin hero Paul Vautin took over the coaching reins in 1995 earning himself an unlikely 3-0 series win in his maiden outing with the whistle in hand - it was Queensland's third whitewash (after 1988, 1989). It also stopped Phil Gould's winning run after he'd taken three in a row. 

 

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