State of Origin has played host to some of the most exciting and intriguing matches in rugby league over the past 20 years.
Most matches have something on the line with series cleansweeps few and far between.
Close games in Origin often come down to one or two moments of brilliance to seal the match or steal the show.
And sometimes, those moments are just precursors for what is to come.
Game 1, 2004
State of Origin is known for occasionally making heroes out of the honest toilers. The men who do all the clean up work, who truck the ball into the teeth of the defence, or who simply never give up. In 2004, the men you’d normally associate with an Origin field goal would be Craig Gower, Brett Finch, Scott Prince and Darren Lockyer. It most certainly wouldn’t be Blues lock-turned-five-eighth Shaun Timmins.
But that’s exactly what happened. With Game One locked at 8-all as the 80th minute ticked over, State of Origin headed to its first ever golden point. Up stepped Timmins, who booted the match winner in the 84th minute. That was after three failed attempts by halfback Craig Gower. Timmins etched himself into Origin folklore that night.
Game 1, 2005
Just one year on from Origin’s first ever golden point game and NSW and Queensland once again were deadlocked at the end of the 80 minutes. This time they were drawn at 20-all and Darren Lockyer was unable to convert two attempts at field goal.
As the Blues worked it out of their own end, Brett Kimmorley looked to hit Matt King on the left edge before Matt Bowen plucked the ball out of the air and raced away to win the match. Unfortunately for Queensland that series is known for Andrew Johns’ return in game two and his subsequent domination of the series.
Game 3, 2006
After three consecutive series victories and the Blues without legends such as Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns, Queensland seemed to prime to prevent what would have been an unprecedented four consecutive series wins. North of the border, Origin was reportedly dead, and new life needed to be breathed into the format.
Enter Darren Lockyer. The Maroons five-eighth swooped on an errant Brett Hodgson pass late in the match to snatch victory and kickstart Queensland dominance for the next eight years. It was also the first decider fought on neutral ground, with the match occurring in Melbourne.
Game 3, 2012
Queensland’s dominance at the end of the 2000s and into the 2010s didn’t really see many legendary matches or entirely close finishes. One thing is for certain, it almost always ended in a Queensland win.
But in 2012, after six consecutive series losses, the Blues looked set to break their hoodoo. They had fought back from being 16-8 down to level the match at 20-all. But as the Maroons had made a habit, they would have the final say with Cooper Cronk the match-winning field goal in the 75th minute.
Game 2, 2014
After eight years without success and countless halves pairings, the Blues entrusted the number seven jersey to Trent Hodkinson. A series win looked to be on the cards after NSW managed to win their first series opener in Brisbane for more than a decade, inspired by fullback Jarryd Hayne. Then they headed south for game two.
In Sydney, the match was a dour affair with the wet and slippery conditions making ball movement hard. The Blues took advantage of the grinding game with Hodkinson’s kicking game keeping NSW in the arm wrestle. Then the halfback himself sliced through the Queensland defence and kicked the goal to secure the win and the Shield for the first time since 2005.
Game 3, 2019
The Blues’ 2014 joy was short-lived. The following three years once again saw Maroons dominance before Brad Fittler’s new era NSW managed to take the 2018 series. But NSW didn’t want just the one series win like they had managed four years earlier. They wanted a little more.
In 2019, both sides were fairly balanced and the series was tied heading into the decider. After virtually 80 minutes, neither side could be separated at 20-all and it looked destined for extra time. That was until the Blues shifted the ball to their right, putting Blake Ferguson down the touchline, who found James Tedesco on the inside and the NSW fullback crossed in the corner to win the series, doing to Queensland what they had so often done to the Blues.