Heavy treatment … Tony Williams tackles New Zealand's Kevin Proctor. Photo: Getty Images
THEY have won seven consecutive State of Origin series and predictably dominated the national squad - and on Saturday night the Queenslanders managed to hijack the Australian victory celebrations, giving them a cheeky Maroon tinge.
As the Australians celebrated their victory over New Zealand on the field in Townsville, the Maroons in the squad started to belt out the traditional Queensland victory song, raising the eyebrows of their interstate counterparts.
''I don't think they meant anything by it,'' said Blues captain and Australian back-rower Paul Gallen. ''The majority of the team are Queenslanders and they were probably just all around each other. Unfortunately for us NSW guys, they're used to singing it. If I thought they were doing it to be offensive or to be smug, I would have been [offended]. But they're not those type of guys. This Australian team, we all get on really well.''
Nate Myles was dropped from Australia's starting team on Saturday because he had been accidentally elbowed in the chest by his captain, Cameron Smith. Myles's demotion from starting at lock to the bench - where he stayed until the 56th minute of the 18-10 win over New Zealand - was a contentious topic after the Dairy Farmers Stadium international, with former Test forward Nathan Hindmarsh tweeting: ''If you started with Nate miles [sic] the job would have been done earlier.''
Coach Tim Sheens said that while he had wanted to start with Tony Williams, Myles had aggravated his existing sternum injury at training. Team doctor Dave Givney told the Herald: ''Nate copped an accidental elbow in it from another bloke at training. It was Cameron Smith. It was not supposed to be a contact session; Nate wasn't wearing his pad. He's fine when he's wearing the pad.''
Smith on Saturday became only the third premiership captain to lift club, state and international trophies in the same year.
Debate over the use of the interchange bench has been a mark of Sheens's tenure as national coach, with Daly Cherry-Evans included in the previous trans-Tasman encounter in April but not used.
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney thought the inclusion of Williams in place of Myles was tactical. ''It didn't bother us,'' he said. ''I anticipated they'd try and send him at Benji [Marshall] and I thought Benji and Kevin Proctor handled him well.''
When Myles did go on, he picked up a knee injury. Similar problems to interchange forward Ryan Hoffman (ankle) and centre Greg Inglis (knee) would not affect their pre-seasons, Givney said. After prop James Tamou won the players' player award, Gallen reflected on the night he asked the Maori representative to switch to NSW. The pair planned to return to the scene of their chance meeting after Saturday's match.
''It was an interesting session, that one,'' vice-captain Gallen said. ''I thought he was geeing up. I was actually putting crap on him all night, giving it to him.
''I didn't realise how big he was until I was up close to him. Then he told me he wanted to play with me. I was, like, 'How's that going to happen?' and he said he wanted to play for NSW.''
While the clash finished with the same margin as the previous match between the countries, it was tight enough for Australia to opt for a penalty goal in the 62nd minute to break a 10-10 deadlock.
''It was looking a bit hairy there … 10-all,'' said prop David Shillington. ''A lot of people don't take the two points these days, they go for the try, but we weren't completing as well as we could have, we weren't as dominant as we could have been.
''Taking the two points … would have broken them a little bit and put a bit of wind in their sails. You just have to defend then, when you're two points up. You don't have to try and create anything fantastic.''
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston said completing the switch from No.7 to replace Darren Lockyer at representative level was a success.
''It's a bit of relief,'' he said. ''I feel like I filled those boots pretty well.''