Gould: Origin win not pretty, but who cares?
Blues! Blues! Blues! Blues!
New South Wales! New South Wales! New South Wales!New South Wales!
We finally get it. The players get it! The crowd gets it! The State of NSW gets it!
It was not a classic match by any stretch of the imagination. It was very dour at best. There were controversial moments and missed opportunities. There were plenty of mistakes from both sides - far too many in fact for players of this elite ability.
But when they inscribe the winners' name on the State Of Origin shield, all they will write are the words NEW SOUTH WALES.
No-one will care how they did it. History will record only that the Blues have won the 2014 Origin Series.
It was a niggling, spiteful, in-your-face, spoiling, push-and shove, wrestle-a-thon, with very little sparkling passages of play at all.
To be honest, the Queenslanders were probably going a bit the better for the first hour of play despite the fact the score was only 4-0 in what had been a tryless affair. They played a strangling, spoiling brand of football as they gallantly tried to defend their title.
They definitely had the Blues on "tilt" for most of the contest and looked to be grinding their way to an ugly win.
However, when the game came down to the final 20 minutes and the result was in the balance, it was the normally unflappable Maroons who started to falter under pressure. They made several unforced errors, time and again inviting the Blues to come and get them.
For an agonizing 10-minute period, though, it appeared the Blues weren't going to accept the invitation. They, too, lost their way on several occasions as they searched for the winning score.
It was frustrating to watch the Blues try so hard, want it so bad, give so much, but execute their attacking options so poorly. They got bogged down with far too many forward charges which restricted the ball movement to their playmakers and fliers out wide.
As if watching the last eight seasons of losing series was not agonizing enough for Blues fans, the last 20 minutes of this match extracted every last ounce of emotion and aching need they had left.
But finally, it came.
Seventy-one minutes into the match the ball found its way into the hands of halfback Trent Hodkinson. A surprise selection for Game I of the series, little did we know it would come down this young man to win the game for his team.
He moved to his left with teammates in motion. For the first time all night, the Maroons defence looked tentative. They started to slide and back away, sensing the dangers out wide. Surely this young man would search wider with a pass to a flying support.
In Origin football you need all 17 players on your team thinking they could be the man that has to win it for their state. As the rap song by Eminem asks, "If you have one chance, one opportunity; could you do it?"
Hodkinson, took his chance. He ate up his opportunity.
He showed to pass wide, dummied, swerved, accelerated and surged into the in-goal for the levelling score.
His teammates went wild. The crowd went wild. Emotions poured out.
It was all beautiful; but there was just one problem.
Hodkinson still had to kick the goal. He had to convert his own try. Twenty metres out, twenty metres in from the touch line, it wasn't a difficult kick by most standards. But this was no ordinary occasion. All eyes are on one man. The tens of millions watching from around the world. The four million viewers here in Australia, the 84,000 fans in the crowd, the 33 other players involved in this battle; everyone with their eyes trained on this most unsuspecting of heroes.
As he went through his normal routine, one wonders what was going through Hodkinson's mind. The years of practice sessions in the park. The countless lonely hours when no-one else is around, kicking goal after goal while no one was watching, treating each kick like it was the one to win the game. With each practice kick, he deposits a little more confidence in the bank, so that when the big day finally comes, he can make the withdrawal he needs.
Without any sign of nerves or negativity, young Trent Hodkinson piloted his kick straight down the middle.
I know there will be many more moments reflected upon as the experts dissect the action and contemplate what might have been. But, for me, that was a special moment, for a humble young man who has had to overcome so many injuries and disappointments in his life, to persevere with his pursuit of being a footballer, to the point where he now landed himself in that moment in this all-important contest.
Congratulations young man.
Congratulations to all the Blues players on a job well done.
Congratulations to NSW coach Laurie Daley on becoming only the second man in NSW history to win an Origin series as a player, a captain, and a coach. Laurie knows Origin so well. He was such the competitor as a player and he was a wonderful leader. This series win had his fingerprints all over it. Hopefully, there are more to come.
And congratulations to Queensland. They have been a champion team for eight seasons. It has been an unprecedented and extraordinary period of Origin dominance. They did not surrender their title lightly. They fought to the last minute in both games and only came up a try short in each battle. They will be back for more. Origin history tells us this battle is never really won; it's simply played out time and time again for us all to enjoy.
But for now, it's New South Wale's time to celebrate.
Blues! Blues! Blues! Blues!
New South Wales! New South Wales! New South Wales! New South Wales!
You bloody beauty!
Sydney Morning Herald