They believed, and then they delivered.
Queensland’s magnificent Maroons have one hand on the State of Origin shield after a breathtaking 18-14 win over the Blues at Suncorp Stadium in Game One of the series.
In an Origin game for the ages, the Maroons’ new breed proved they understand what it means to wear that famous Queensland jersey by tapping into its fabled fighting spirit to deliver their own piece of Origin folklore.
The greats of a former, golden era are now gone.
Smith, Inglis, Cronk and Slater have been replaced by a new wave of Queenslanders determined to not only live up to the standards of those that went before, but contribute their own strands to the Maroons’ Origin fabric.
Under the leadership of new skipper Daly-Cherry Evans, Queensland displayed all the hallmarks of the Maroons’ most famous teams, using blunt-force trauma in defence, edge-to-edge attack and a never-say-die spirit to batter the Blues into submission.
NSW lead 8-0 at halftime. Queensland, despite having a bucketload of brilliance, could not find the teaspoon of luck needed to turn opportunities into points.
Incredibly, three tries went begging in the first half – one in each corner and, heartbreakingly, one right under the posts when Dylan Napa fluffed falling on a stray ball.
But rather than drop their heads, the lack of return on the scoreboard only sharpened Queensland’s resolve.
A brilliant long ball from Kalyn Ponga to the left wing in the 52nd minute got the Maroons rolling, with Corey Oates finishing the job that an errantly placed heel had denied him in the first half.
Ponga duly landed the conversion from the sideline chalk, and the Maroons we’re back in business.
Four minutes later, it looked like Queensland were in again when Michael Morgan crashed over.
But the referees ruled he had been held up.
The decision only stoked Queensland’s fire.
In the Blues’ ensuing set of six, the Maroons attacked with brutal defence and restricted NSW to a meagre gain of 9m from their five plays.
Queensland leveled the scores in the 57th minute when Matt Gillett was denied a try – the fifth Maroons try to go begging – by a professional foul that saw Blues centre Latrell Mitchell sin-binned.
From that moment, Queensland’s new wave became a tsunami, with yet another try-scoring double to Man of the Match Dane Gagai in the 66th and 70th minute – the first of them a 95m intercept that brought the crowd of 52,191 to their feet – pushing the Maroons out to an 18-8 lead.
The Blues nabbed a consolation try five minutes from fulltime to reduce the margin, but there was no doubt this was Queensland’s night.
After a week where Maroons coach Kevin Walters was criticized and ridiculed in some sections for his focus on mental preparation and self-belief, Queensland delivered a performance that showed they stand united with their coach.
They will now carry new levels of belief into Origin II in Perth that they will again have the Blues’ measure and can bring the shield back home to Queensland.
QLD 18 (D Gagai 2, C Oates tries; K Ponga 3 goals) d NSW 14 (J Morris, J Trbojevic tries; N Cleary 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 52,191.