There are many reasons to sit back and marvel at this current Queensland State of Origin team.
Their incredible run of success in recent times has brought them many deserved accolades and plaudits from most parts.
But in the year of the London Olympics, it is worth momentarily setting their successes to one side to acknowledge the achievement in merely competing.
What these players have to deliver just to compete in an Origin game – let alone to win one or a series – is truly superhuman.
Origin completely consumes every part of their physical, mental and emotional reserves, because that is what it demands.
You have to give everything you have, and sometimes still it is not enough.
That is why Origin defeat is so crushing on so many levels, and why victory – any victory – is cause for such celebration.
Origin games are nothing short of brutal. This year it was taken to whole new level.
The physical battering these players willingly subject themselves to is bordering on frightening.
There is no lull in play. No flat spot to catch your breath. No time to nurse that knock until you can get yourself back up to speed.
These are 34 of the best and bravest athletes in the world colliding at high speed and high intensity for 80 minutes.
If you get hurt, you get up and you keep going. If you can’t get up or can’t keep going, then you get replaced with someone who will.
And every player goes into these games knowing there is a very real risk of being seriously hurt.
They know every tackle they make needs them to give everything they have. They know every time they take the ball up, they will be smashed by people trying to hurt them in defence of what they believe.
They know all of this, and they know their opponents know it as well.
And they not only willingly throw themselves into it, they will pick themselves up and anxiously wait for their chance to go again.
Knowing that kind of physical punishment lies ahead of you, and freely electing to walk into it, takes incredible mental toughness.
Can you imagine the kind of crushing pressure that must be on these young men in every game they play in Origin?
All the history, all the tradition that they carry on their backs in each and every match is a huge responsibility.
Can you imagine carrying all of that onto a field with 80,000 people booing every move you make, or 50,000 riding on your every step?
What about knowing that your every move is being watched live on millions of televisions around the country and the world?
You get stage fright? You won’t survive here.EMOTIONALLY
The emotion factor is a big thing to handle in State of Origin – it is all at once your greatest asset and the thing that can harm your performance the most.
On the positive side is being able to call on the great sense of pride in playing for Queensland, and of the traditions and expectations that comes with it, to fuel your performance to a new level, and reach heights you had not previously attained.
But on the other hand, it is easy to get carried away with all of that emotion, to get too worked up, and that is when it starts being detrimental to your performance.
This year, on an emotional level, there was a lot for these players to deal with. The untimely death of Arthur Beetson in December last year, and the unveiling of the statue in his honour before Game III, hit at the very heart of this team.
We also had Petero Civoniceva’s farewell to deal with.
I don’t have to tell you what a special player Petero is, nor what a special person he is.
His reputation on and off the rugby league field has been well-earned over the course of a long, outstanding career.
Petero understandably holds a very special place within the make-up of this football team, so the players were desperate to see him finish his career in a fitting fashion.
The players were able to deliver that to Darren last year, and they were very proud to be able to do the same for Petero as well.
So take all of those physical, mental and emotion demands being placed on our players, and you begin to see what a significant investment is made by these players just to compete.
It is something to celebrate.
To contend with all that and emerge victorious is something very special indeed.