A slew of records are ready to fall into the lap of New South Wales but it may not be the statistics themselves which endure, rather where they occurred. That is, in Queensland.
In game one, when the Tom Trbojevic-led Blues reigned 50-6, it was not only the fact that the 44-point hammering happened, but that it happened in Townsville.
In game two, when Brad Fittler’s side won 26-0 and kept the Maroons scoreless for just the third time in Origin history, it was all the more memorable because it was the first time Queensland have been beaten to nil at their home ground of Suncorp Stadium.
Maroons’ sharp slide into mediocrity is concerning – and not just for Queensland
And in game three, if NSW secure their first 3-0 series win since 2000 on Wednesday night and break the record for most points scored in a series, the bright lights of full-time delight will actually be blinding because they shone on the Gold Coast.
If the logistical challenges of Covid-19 have delivered a silver lining for NSW, it is this: no team has ever lost all three Origin games on home soil. It is unsurprising this is the case given an entire series is rarely played in one state. And the opportunity would never have arisen had 2021 proceeded as planned, with the games scheduled to be played at the MCG, Suncorp Stadium and ANZ Stadium respectively.
Even as recently as three days ago, Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium was all set to host the dead rubber. But the pandemic had its way and now the chance beckons. “It would be a big part of history I think if we’re able to do that,” Fittler said on Tuesday. “Thinking about that, it’s pretty cool.” He qualified it, of course, with: “Until they do that, you just win another series, that’s about it.”
Still, the records beckoning are copious enough to list. Australian Associated Press has conveniently compiled them: a further 29 or more NSW points will break the record for most scored by a team in an Origin series; one more Trbojevic try will see him equal Ryan Girdler’s Origin series record of five set in 2000; Queensland have scored just six points across two games and need another 10 points to beat their lowest series total set in 1992; NSW’s current 70-point differential is already superior to the 62-point record margin the Blues set in 2000, meaning even an eight-point loss would leave them sharing that feat; a 48-point NSW win would see them equal Queensland’s 118-point differential, amassed over their eight straight series wins, in just one series.
It does not make pretty reading for Paul Green, who was handed the unenviable task of emulating predecessor Wayne Bennett’s stirring underdogs-to-victors performance in 2020 and whose position as Maroons coach is under intense scrutiny to the point that captain Daly Cherry-Evans admitted the result could impact both their jobs.
“If you’re not winning games of footy the coach and playing group, in particular the leaders, come under the most scrutiny,” Cherry-Evans said. “If we get a win tomorrow night it’s going to help Greeny retain his job – and players like myself – but I’m really confident in where we are and what we’re doing.
“Greeny’s doing the best job he can and unfortunately the results haven’t reflected the hard work he’s put in, but it comes with the territory when you’re down 2-0 in the series. I might be a little crazy, but I think I’m going to win every game I play and tomorrow night’s no different.”
Anything can happen, but there is something about this iteration of NSW. It has shades of the Queensland side that dominated for eight years from 2006-2013. Different names, obviously, but a team full of stars that can be a star team. Talk of a Blues dynasty may yet be premature, but change-room culture gets a big wrap for a reason.
“It’s pretty special, some of the best players in the game at the top of their game coming into a team together and have all bonded well,” James Tedesco said after game two.