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State of Origin: NSW's silent destroyers evoke memories of '85

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"It ends here tonight!"

That's what NSW players kept shouting at each other after Darius Boyd scored his second try to bring Queensland within four points. It says as much as anything about why NSW are on the verge of ending eight years of Queensland dominance.

Footballers know footballers best, so that’s why Benny Elias knew NSW would win Origin I when he visited the dressing room half an hour before kick-off on Wednesday night.

“It was dead quiet,” the former NSW hooker recalled to this column at Brisbane Airport the morning after one of his state’s greatest victories. “Nobody was speaking. I went back upstairs to the official function and sat down next to [NRL chief executive] Dave Smith just before kick-off and said, ‘They’ll win tonight.'”

Now, it would be easy to dismiss this sort of talk as typical league hyperbole, issued in the warm and fuzzy haze of the morning after Origin ecstasy.


But the silence in the rooms reminded Elias of a similar night in 1985 when the NSW team bus snaked its way down Caxton Street towards Lang Park and captain Steve Mortimer made an impromptu stop outside the Caxton Hotel.

"Look at these bastards, they hate us,” said Turvey as the Queenslanders hurled beer cans with as much abuse. “They're here to see us get beaten. Well, we're gonna disappoint them, tonight is the turning point."

Recalled Elias: "Nobody said a word from the moment Turvey delivered his speech to the moment we ran out onto Lang Park."

NSW won the match 18-2. They won the second match of the series 21-14. Mortimer fell to his knees and cried with relief, in one of Origin’s most enduring images.

Is history repeating?

“Last night, in the NSW dressing room, it felt like ’85 all over again,” Elias said.

Whether this NSW side can perform the same heroics as their forefathers from 1985 remains to be seen.

They head to Sydney in three weeks as favourites to do so. But, as Jarryd Hayne said after the match: “We’ve woken up the beast”.

Tale of two Haynes

Epic Origin and all that - but we could've been so easily talking about the wrong Hayne. Shayne instead of Jarryd.

Take it as fact that the Blues were filthy about having to defend three sets on their own line in the last three minutes, not least the last throw of the dice after the men in the middle made the inexplicable call that halfback Trent Hodkinson had knocked the ball on, when a kick through had come off his shoulder AND gone backwards. That howler came from Ben Cummins.

Queensland don't need any help when it comes to comebacks, let alone being gifted repeat sets, in the final minutes, on their home turf, in the 100th game of State of Bloody Origin.

The Blues are also filthy with Queensland counterpart Brent Tate, who went on the offensive first thing on Thursday morning over Josh Reynolds' dangerous throw tackle, evoking the name of Alex McKinnon

Having suffered several serious neck injuries, Tate is more than entitled to have his say. But the NSW players this column spoke to reckon he was clearly trying to influence the outcome of Thursday night's judiciary hearing.

Stirring memories

Just back to Benny for a second.

The on-field tribute to mark the 100th Origin match played out on Suncorp Stadium before the match was first class.

The sight of Elias and his 79-year-old mother Barbara embracing as vision flashed on the screen from a match from 1992 was particularly heart-wrenching.

That’s when Barbara famously jumped the fence and stormed the field, hugging her bloodied son, wiping his blood on her cheeks, just after full-time.

Barbara now suffers from dementia, but at the rehearsal on Tuesday night her mind flickered when she saw that snapshot in time.

“That’s my son,” Barbara said to Benny, before starting to cry.

Yes, you are all permitted to cuddle the person sitting next to you right now.

I’m not sure this large, bearded man on Flight QF517 from Brisbane to Sydney will be entirely happy, though.

More Blues on the horizon 

The whisper in the Legends Room before the Socceroos’ farewell match against South Africa at ANZ Stadium was English Premier League giants Chelsea could be coming to Australia next year to take on the A-League All-Stars.

“They’re in the frame,” is how it was described.

It’s a very long shot, we’re told, but don’t be stunned if new Melbourne Heart owners Manchester City do make the trip in August 2015.

While the Socceroos are already being consigned to failure in Brazil, a speech from FFA boss Frank Lowy on Monday night highlighted how far Australian football has come in the past decade during his tenure.

As the 83-year-old Westfield boss pointed out, when the FFA came to be, who’d have envisaged the Socceroos making their third appearance in the World Cup finals?

Lowy deserves as much of the credit as anyone.

Red alert

We’re hearing some of Sydney - nay Australia’s - sporting types are sweating bullets right now following a story from Sun-Herald colleague Eamonn Duff at the weekend about the clientele at high-class brothels Liaisons in Edgecliff and the Golden Apple in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross.

Duff reported that documents he had obtained revealed sporting personalities - including NRL stars and two prominent horseracing identities - had been visiting the establishments.

This column is privy to the sporting names involved, and let’s just say some will be ducking for cover - or be more than happy to watch Sex and the City reruns with their other halves from now on.

Cavalier farewell

They’re still raving about the send-off former SCG Trust chairman Rodney Cavalier received last week, with a veritable who’s who from political and sporting circles filling the members’ pavilion to bid farewell.

The sporting types included Steve Waugh, Bob McCarthy, Ron Coote, Marlene Matthews, Stuart MacGill, Brian Booth, Alan Davidson, Geoff Lawson, Frank Misson, Arthur Morris and Gordon Rorke.

Trustee Alan Jones read from Cavalier’s own missives throughout his tenure.

Cavalier then spoke for nearly an hour, praising those in the room and skewering plenty of those who weren’t.

His proudest achievement? Ensuring that the name Victor Trumper wasn’t lost from the precinct, as well as overseeing the new grandstand development.

But what really fired him up was the struggle against Homebush and how it’s a shame ICAC wouldn’t look at the restrictions placed on other venues while ANZ Stadium was being built.

Q&A: Ken Sutcliffe

Let’s get this one out of the way: Were you really a male model while growing up in Mudgee?

Never the male model from Mudgee until Billy Birmingham decided it was a good idea for The 12th Man album. Can’t believe how it stuck. Just about anywhere I go – overseas or in Australia – somebody yells it out. Bill could never take off my voice. He actually had me do a couple of lines on the album. To this day, people actually think it was Billy. It’s a handy fact to know at a trivia night.

Best event you’ve covered?

The 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany was an eye-opener for me. It gave me a real understanding of just why the world game gets people in. The fact that the Socceroos did well added to the whole thing. The South African experience four years later wasn’t a patch on the German experience. Having said that, watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play five brilliant sets of finals tennis at Wimbledon is something I will never forget.

Funniest off-air incident that we might not know about?

Max Walker having toilet break during Wide Worlds of Sports on a Saturday afternoon. Max was at peace with the world singing, whistling, not realising his mobile microphone was open. We heard everything for a few seconds while I was back-announcing a story. I had all this going on in my earpiece.

Worst mistake while reading sport on the news?

I called Mark Philippoussis ‘‘Mark Phila-poop-is’’. 'Hendo' (Brian Henderson) nearly fell through his chair. It was up there with Ron Casey calling Billie Jean King ‘‘Jellie Bean King’’ after a long lunch.

Worst insult a Queenslander has hurled at you when introducing Origin?

Queenslanders have always been good to me, except the day I walked across Lang Park side by side with big Darryl Eastlake. Abuse was flying everywhere, mostly aimed at ‘‘Big D’’.

Best memory from your days at 2LF Young working beside the great Rabs Warren?

My fondest memory was of the great Rabs doing a disc jockey session on a Saturday night while trying to have a couple of bets with the local SP bookie. Rabbie hated DJ work. He couldn’t stand the music, especially Joe Cocker’s version of the Beatles hit A Little Help From My Friends. Rabbie was also very cunning, and liked the idea of records that went over five minutes. He would play Hey Jude, Like a Rolling Stone, Macarthur Park. That would give him almost 18 minutes to do business with his SP. It was not unusual for him to play those three songs back to back at least three times in a three-hour session.

Ken Sutcliffe's 35 years at Channel Nine will be celebrated with a special knees-up in Sydney next Tuesday.

The Quote

‘‘I went to a place I’ve never been.’’ 

Hungry Jack’s? The State Library? Urunga? We know what you meant, Jarryd Hayne. We just wonder why you weren’t picked at fullback for Origin much, much sooner.

Thumbs up

If Adam Scott was feeling the heat about becoming Australia’s first world No.1 since the Sharkie, he didn’t show it when he won the Crowne Plaza Invitational, beating Jason Dufner in a playoff. ‘‘It’s tough to concentrate,’’ Dufner said. ‘‘He’s so good looking.’’ This column’s colleagues often say the same thing.

Thumbs down

If there is anything crooker (is that even a word?) than the report on Seven’s Sunday Night program showing American boys and girls as young as six years of age participating in UFC-style bouts, choking and wrestling and punching each other, I don’t know what is.

It's a big weekend for ... 

The GWS Giants, who were so bad against Richmond last weekend their chief executive issued a written apology to their fans. They take on – gulp! – Hawthorn.

It's an even bigger weekend for ... 

The Waratahs, who take on the Chiefs across the ditch on Saturday. The Tahs are flying high, baby, but surely they won’t be considered the real deal if they can’t nail their first win in New Zealand since 2010.