On Monday night, the jumpers NSW players would wear in the State of Origin decider were laid out on a table in the team room at the Pullman Hotel.
Coach Brad Fittler had given his players a message earlier in the day, asking them to consider what it meant to be pulling on the sky-blue jersey for such an important match.
When the time came, they had to share those feelings with the rest of the group.
When it was Mitchell Pearce's turn to collect the No.7, the room fell silent. Pearce's bottom lip quivered, and he struggled to get out the words he'd prepared in his head.
He's not the emotional type but it was hardly surprising. After the Blues' loss in the 2017 series decider, most thought he'd played his last Origin.
Then it was his teammates' turn to speak. Many of them spoke about Pearce. "We want to win this match for you, Mitch," was the general tone of what many said, according to those in the room.
It was an extraordinary gesture for someone who hadn't played in the first two matches; who hadn't played with many of these players; who had been kicked in the teeth time and time again when NSW lost.
On Wednesday night, before 82,565 fans at ANZ Stadium, Pearce finally buried one of the game's most fabled hoodoos, winning his first Origin series - in his 19th match for his state - as the Blues triumphed 26-20 against Queensland.
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Having been parachuted into the side to replace the injured Nathan Cleary, Pearce wasn't brilliant but tradesman-like, fighting and scrapping like his life depended on it.
What he did do was come up with the pass in the final minute that put NSW on the path to victory.
With the scores locked at 20-all and the Blues buried deep in their own territory, he chanced his arm to the right, it went out to Blake Ferguson, who then tip-toed and staggered along the sideline.
Ferguson then hooked a one-handed pass inside for fullback James Tedesco to score in the corner ... and the entire state of NSW exploded.
It was Tedesco's match. It was his series. It was his series last year.
It was 8-8 at half-time and as both teams retreated up the tunnel Maroons enforcer Josh McGuire barked at any Blues player within earshot.
He had good reason to be cocky.
The Blues had started $1.28 favourites with the bookmakers - the shortest price since the 1995 series when Paul Vautin took control of a ragtag Queensland side missing most of its stars because of Super League.
Instead of meekly surrendering as predicted, the Maroons hijacked the match just like they did in that series 24 years ago.
Prop Josh Papalli went mad, makeshift fullback Cameron Munster stepped like a ghost and Corey Norman looked nothing like the Origin roadkill he was expected to become.
He set Munster free time and time again and then put in a perfect grubber for backrower Felise Kaufusi to score the opening try.
The Blues had trawled through video of Norman, noticing how he favoured his left shoulder when defending because of his injured right shoulder.
They went in with the plan of running Tyson Frizell at him.
But, typical of their first half, they couldn't work the play his way. Norman made just four tackles for the half and missed none.
The flow of play wasn't aided by referee Gerard Sutton waiting for the biggest match of the year to make it all about him, blowing 10 penalties in the first 28 minutes.
Admittedly, the two penalties Queensland gave away on their own tryline were justified.
It allowed the Blues to finally crack the Maroons defence with prop Paul Vaughan crashing through. Without them, it may not have come.
In the second half, the referees put the whistle away and the match eventually opened up into an all-time Origin classic.
The big Maroons forwards quickly grew tired. Eventually, the Blues' speed men found them out.
First, Tedesco scored in the corner. Soon after, Damien Cook skipped around Papalli who had just come back and then turned Munster inside out.
But Queensland don't stop. They are the Living Dead. They are the White Walkers. A team of Night Kings.
When McGuire bounced over, bringing the Maroons back within six points, they were exactly where they want to be: throwing the ball to the edges, spooking NSW with every touch.
Ethan Lowe charged down a Maloney kick and then Papalli score. Then Lowe slotted the pressure conversion.
This time, though, NSW held on.
They won this series amid a ripple of criticism over the way Fittler picked and ran the team.
Privately, some NRL coaches dismissed Fittler as a giggling sideline commentator and not much of a coach at all.
None of it really matters now, though.
The Blues have won their first back-to-back series since 2004-05 on his watch.
That was unfathomable only a few years ago - about as improbable as Mitchell Pearce being the one to help deliver it.
- SMH/The Age