Origin icon tears Queensland to shreds

A former NSW star has urged Brad Fittler’s team to “keep the foot on Queensland’s throat” and emulate the record breaking 2000 side as Maroons icon Chris Close issued a chilling warning.

The Blues went up 2-0 at Lang Park in 2000 with a 28-10 win to become the first and only NSW team to win Game Two in Brisbane and wrap up the series at the same time. NSW went on to win that series in a clean sweep.

“The NSW team hasn’t had a whitewash since then but the fact remains that Game Two in Brisbane was the crucial game in that series,” Scott Hill, who played all three games for NSW in 2000, said.

“This is a real test of character for this side to be able to keep the foot on Queensland’s throat and be really serious about what they do.

“It is a massive opportunity for this team, and if you look at one of the weaknesses of the NSW team in the last ten years it has been the inability to back up a good win in Origin. That NSW has only gone two-up in Brisbane once highlights the enormity of the occasion.”

Maroons great Close returned in 2001 as Queensland team manager when Wayne Bennett was also recalled as coach after the 2000 debacle. He said that if NSW’s record breaking 50-6 win was repeated at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night then the Queensland players, who he reckoned gave up in Game One, won’t be forgiven.

“The 2000 series was a bad time for Queensland and the players let their state down and their representative duties down, and that is exactly what happened in Game One in Townsville,” Close said.

“Fans are unforgiving and rightly so. If the players go two-down and give it everything they have and get beaten by a better team, then no-one will care.

“If they go two-down and it is a runaway score like Game One and they give up and poonce around talking about what the opposition did instead of worrying about what happened in their own backyard, then the public won’t forgive them … and those players will be on the outer.

“The guys in Townsville gave up. They stopped trying. The guys that should have bent their backs and got into it, went missing.

“You can have a f*** up once at Origin level but rarely are you afforded it twice. If that happens the ripple effect will go through the selectors and the hierarchy of the Queensland Rugby League, and they will want answers as to why their team isn’t like Queensland anymore.”

Close (L) is a Queenslander through and through.Source:News Limited

The 2000 side, captained by current coach Fittler, shared many similarities with the current team with players lining up out of position. To highlight its strength, Geoff Toovey started at hooker in the series with Andrew Johns on the bench. Hill, a five-eighth for most of his career at the Storm, played lock.

“There were some handy footballers in the team. When you have Andrew Johns off the bench it shows the quality of it,” Hill said.

“The first game in Townsville showed the ability of the players in this side to play their natural game no matter what position they played. It highlighted to me that Latrell Mitchell is best as a centre, and the ability of Tom Trbojevic to adapt so well.

“I was 23 in 2000 and it was a whirlwind time. It was when the team bus used to go past Caxton St and I clearly remember the Queenslanders throwing coins and bottles at us. It was the old Lang Park and there was a lot of emotion and history in us being able to lock the series up.

“Then we went down to Sydney and everyone remembers Bryan Fletcher and the grenade throwing thing (in a 56-16 win) but we’d already got it done in Brisbane.”

The 2000 series loss sent shockwaves through the Maroons and resulted in the most drastic change seen in their history. Wayne Bennett was brought back in 2001 to coach the side and the successful Emerging Origin program was established. Many of the players from the 2000 debacle did not wear a Queensland jersey again.

“A whole plan emerged after 2000 that was successful and Wayne was a part of that,” Close said.

“If he was needed to again, I am sure Wayne would come back. He did last year and we got a series victory. I don’t think Wayne would ever turn his back on Queensland if asked to have another go. He would bring his spin to it, and his spin is tried and proven.”

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