Queensland has spent much of the past four decades proving big names don't always win big games. But sometimes they just do.

This was the performance Queensland was dreading. The one where magnificent NSW utility back Tom Trbojevic played with the mesmerising class he has been displaying all year for Manly.

The one where NSW gambled on youngsters like Jarome Luai and Brian To'o, who were on fire in club football and they kept form without breaking stride.


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The one where Latrell Mitchell rediscovered his love for Origin football as a key part of the 50-6 romp which hit Townsville with the force of a tropical cyclone.

Queensland rugby league must face the brutal facts that the game in this state is in a dire slump.

Last season's Wayne Bennett inspired State of Origin success was a gold stud in an ocean of mediocrity.

Had Queensland won in Townsville, it would have been against the flow of what is happening around the state with the Broncos in a harrowing form slump, the Titans plodding and the Cowboys grinding away after three poor years.

The Queensland Government paid $8 million for Townsville to host the game only to have their team deliver a performance straight out of the 50 cent bargain bin.

NSW were posted $1.55 favourites on the basis they were bigger, stronger, faster and had more club combinations. For once the bookies were right. That was how they looked. That was how they played.


Darren Lockyer was the first to spot the warning signs of a Blues ambush when he noted that Origin history was littered with several examples of upset Queensland series wins being followed by series losses to severely chastened Blues sides the next year.

Origin's rich history is littered with times when potential failed to equal performance. This time, sadly for Queensland, it did before a sold out Townsville crowd.

Queensland were hoping to defy gravity with a mixed and matched and underdone team but you cannot beat class when it fires like NSW did.

Some Queensland players emerged with their reputations intact. Hooker Harry Grant had moments of class. Titans forward Moeaki Fotuaika was relentless. Daly Cherry-Evans tried hard under smothering pressure.

But most were monstered.

Cameron Munster had lacked recent football and struggled for rhythm while Dane Gagai, for once in Origin, was Clark Kent not Superman.

The lack of recent games really showed in Cameron Munster.
The lack of recent games really showed in Cameron Munster.

NSW not only had the glamour but the grit as well. They were told to expect a wall of sound cascading down upon them from the grandstands, and so it did, but the feature of the stadium that mattered most - the fast surface - suited their flashy style.

When Townsville snatched the game after Melbourne had to surrender it, the Blues sent up a collective sigh of "what the …''

Even before the decision had been announced, Paul Green had arranged rooms for his side in the best hotel in town.

The Maroons seemed ahead of the game, but for once it gave NSW coach Brad Fittler the right to snatch the Maroons traditional narrative of being the team taunted by injustices that could only be righted on the field.

The Blues victory sets them up beautifully to snatch the series. They will effectively have a free shot at the Maroons at Suncorp in Game II before the final match in Sydney.

Fittler admitted the Blues got sloppy last year. He was outcoached by Bennett and his team was hopelessly outhussled and outmuscled in the Suncorp Stadium decider and it hurt him deeply.


The safest bet of the series was that, for the Blues, the opening 20 minutes of this series would be a response to their Suncorp Stadium slumber in game III last season.

And it was.

With key man Christian Welch out of the game with a head knock early, the amped-up Blues raced to a 20-0 lead and the Maroons defence at times looked as if they had spent the night sleeping in Townsville's tent city.

Even in his absence, the legend of Bennett grew from this result. Queensland lost two series in a row before Bennett was plucked from then wilderness last season for the whackiest win of all.

Now he is gone and the Maroons are back on the rack. And it's a long way back.

Originally published as Brutal truth: Queensland is in a dire slump

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