This year’s State of Origin series has devolved into a rugby league version of Elm Street – a nightmare within a nightmare from which desperate Queenslanders just cannot wake up.
But instead of Freddie Krueger, it is Freddie Fittler and his seemingly unstoppable Blues tearing the Maroons to shreds.
Following a worst-ever 50-6 loss in Game I in Townsville, the Maroons were hellbent on revenge and redemption at Suncorp Stadium in Origin II.
Instead, it was another journey into Origin hell, as the Blues took back the shield with a 26-0 shutout – putting them in the box seat for a series clean-sweep.
Queensland famously thrives on adversity, but this year’s series has strained even that famous Maroons spirit to the absolute limit.
Wounded but determined after the humiliation of Game I, Paul Green’s Maroons needed a lot to go their way to level the series – and nothing did.
From the early withdrawal of Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson with injury, the devastating loss of rookie sensation Reece Walsh with a hamstring strain at the captain’s run, and then the diabolical withdrawal of debutant Ronaldo Mulitalo just hours before kick-off because of an eligibility drama, Queensland were seemingly cursed before a ball was kicked.
But there were glimmers of hope. For starters, Queensland’s Women’s Origin team delivered a timely example of determination and resilience with their stirring 8-6 win over NSW to claim back-to-back titles in their match on Friday night.
In tough, wet conditions at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the Maroons had to fight after NSW levelled the scores in the 52nd minute, and then the bunker denied what looked like the match-winning try to Tamika Upton with seven minutes to play because of obstruction.
It was a tough call given the distance the Blues defenders would have had to travel to stop Upton. But rather than drop their heads, the Maroons kept working hard – forcing the Sky Blues into error to earn themselves one last opportunity.
That duly came when a lack of discipline from NSW gave the Maroons a penalty right in front in the final minute of the game, and Lauren Brown made no mistake to land the points and the win.
That show of heart seemed to inspire the men’s team when they kicked off at Suncorp Stadium two nights later, with the Maroons ripping in with venom in defence and showing the hunger that was lacking in Townsville.
But costly Queensland errors let the Blues off the hook.
In the 12th minute, winger Kyle Feldt had the ball stripped on the first tackle by Latrell Mitchell, giving NSW the possession and position they needed to score their first try through Josh Addo-Carr.
In the 25th minute, Mitchell was again the beneficiary of a Queensland mistake – latching onto an intercept with the Maroons deep on the attack and racing 90m to score.
By halftime, Queensland were in a hole at 18-0 down, and clearly lacking the cohesion in attack and defence to dig their way out of it.
The Maroons did have opportunities in the second half, with at least three tries going begging due to mistakes or the resolute Blues defence.
In the end, all the Maroons were left with was another slice of history as the first Queensland team to be held scoreless at Suncorp Stadium, and a further reminder of how much ground they have to make up if this nightmare series is to have a happy ending.
NSW 26 (Addo-Carr 2, Mitchell, Trbojevic tries; Cleary 5 goals) d QLD 0 at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 52,273
QLD WOMEN 8 (Brill try; Brown 2 goals) d NSW WOMEN 6 (Kelly try; Studdon goal) at Sunshine Coast Stadium