“That’s not a try; it’s a miracle”.
Almost 30 years on, that famous call by Ray Warren of Mark Coyne’s last gasp try to snatch victory for Queensland in the opening game of the 1994 series has become a virtual prophecy and a reminder to the Blues of why it is so important to win first up in Sydney.
The 1994 NSW team, which included Blues coach Brad Fittler and two members of his staff, Paul McGregor and Paul Sironen, is the only side in Origin history to overcome a first up loss at home and triumph away in the remaining two games to win the series.
It’s a feat the Blues will need to emulate if they fail to win Origin I at Accor Stadium as the next two games are in Perth and Brisbane.
Not only has it proven difficult to win a series after losing the opening game, with Queensland doing so six times and NSW on three occasions in the 40 years since the first Origin series in 1982 but only one team has done it without having another home game.
“History says it is important,” Fittler said. “For us, we want to win in front of our people. We didn’t play here last year and only three of the last 10 games have been here so it has been a while.
“The last game we had here was only half a crowd as well [due to COVID restrictions] so it is very, very important. It is very important we perform well in front of our fans.”
McGregor, who has returned to the Blues coaching staff as an assistant to Fittler, said the belief in the 1994 team never waned after the 16-12 loss at the SFS but they were aware of the enormity of their achievement after winning at the MCG and Lang Park in Mal Meninga’s Origin farewell.
“It underlines two things; the importance of winning at home but that you can lose the first game and still win the series,” McGregor said.
“It was an empty feeling after they scored that miracle try right at the end of the game but we had to put that aside pretty quickly and concentrate on what was next, which was winning the game in Melbourne before we went to Brisbane to win the decider up there, which is never easy to do.”
Origin Moments: Coyne's 'Miracle Try'
Sironen said history had demonstrated how crucial it was for the Blues to win the series opener at Accor Stadium.
“You’ve just got to win Game I,” he said. “That sets up the series and it is vitally important to win at home. It is hard enough to win an Origin but even harder away from home. I don’t think our record in Brisbane is too spectacular.
“I recall that in 1994 we were all shell shocked when we got beat in the first game because I think we felt comfortable and thought we had the game, then all of a sudden you get your pants pulled down. That is what Origin is about and Queensland have done that so many times over the years.”
The Blues had won the previous two series in 1992 and 1993 under the coaching of Phil Gould and had retained the nucleus of the same team, which was dominated by players from Canberra, Penrith, Balmain and Illawarra.
Among the players in the team were Fittler, McGregor, Sironen, Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde, Glenn Lazarus, Ben Elias, Paul Harragon, Tim Brasher, Andrew Ettingshausen, Brad Mackay, Ian Roberts, Rod Wishart, Chris Johns and David Barnhill.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 1 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
“Knowing we still had those two games in Melbourne and Brisbane, and that we had won in 1992 and 1993 with the same core group of people, we were very confident,” McGregor said.
“Although it was not an ideal situation to lose the first game at home, we knew from the experience we had in the previous two series that we could pull it back and win.”
Sironen said: “We rained on Mal’s parade in the last game so it was great but it is so difficult. That crop of players had been together for three years so it was a pretty close-knit group of blokes and we had some pretty special players in that group too.”
After winning 14-0 before a then record crowd of 87,161 at the MCG, the Blues went on to triumph 27-12 in the series decider at Lang Park and become the first NSW team to win three consecutive series.
“That was the best feeling ever,” McGregor said. “I still remember the actual night and the next morning when we were flying into Sydney, which was special. I think we went through the night.
“It hadn’t been done before and to dominate for three years in a row was also a first for NSW.”
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