The epitome of an underdog. The Maroons of 2020 overcame hurdle after hurdle to claim one of the more astounding State of Origin series wins of the modern era.
The undermanned and inexperienced outfit were titled the ‘worst ever Maroons side’ and were tipped for a white-wash drubbing as they came up against a fearless NSW squad eyeing a third straight shield.
And while the dynasty the Blues were cooking was set to resonate through history forever, this ‘b-grade’ Queensland side were reading a completely different script.
Game one offered plenty of hope to those from the country’s north-east, while the following week seemed to have deflated any thought of ending New South Wales’ run to another series win.
Across the first fortnight, despite the series being tied at 1-1, it always seemed to be NSW’s for the taking.
The Maroons were set for a third change in the No.1 jumper, an overhaul in the wings, a switch of centres and four new faces for the final leg at home.
Heading back to the opening chapter in this twisted tale, the Maroons were yet to appoint a coach for the series whilst NRL sides were preparing for finals, with Wayne Bennett given the role as he lead the Rabbitohs to a preliminary final finish.
Key figures of the state’s bid for the series were ruled out in the season, with the injury toll only growing once the first whistle was blown in Adelaide.
AJ Brimson, followed on by Broncos teenager Xavier Coates, looked to be the shining lights in this Queensland side only for the football gods to cruelly take that glimmer of hope away from the series.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) November 11, 2020
The Maroons weren’t dead, but they did look buried.
While Wayne Bennett would have waved his magic wand on numerous occasions, the supercoach couldn’t have predicted what was to come from 14 debutants across the three fixtures.
Nine of those neophytes came in the game one win, with two following on in the Sydney clash and four more added to the 17-man side for the historic victory at Lang Park.
While some shined and others would hope to have a moment or two again, every one of those 14 players had a major role in the series, with every name adding to the level of resilience.
The 2020 series will have a nice coat of Maroon paint to it, but it will be the years to come that really offer an unparalleled level of excitement and eagerness.
Harry Grant was a standout in his debut, coming off the pine and being an immediate game changer at the No.9, while the likes of Coates, Brimson, Fa’asuamaleaui, Arrow, Capewell and Lee (x2) have proven the depth in Queensland is endless.
Wests fans will suggest they were hardly surprised to see Grant dazzle when called upon, with the 22-year-old already sewing up his position at hooker for the next decade.
— NRL (@NRL) November 18, 2020
Coates proved his capability in running with the Bulls, while Fa’asuamaleaui at times was a nightmare for the Blues defense.
This new era of Maroon blood is only just getting started, and they most certainly know it.
Queensland had just six players from last year’s decider play in Wednesday’s clash as the sunshine state continues to look to the future.
Valentine Holmes, Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi, Christian Welch have all made their Origin debuts since 2017, with the likes of Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita, Moses Mbye and Joe Ofahengaue also newly appointed to their home state.
While Bennett will retain the old school feel and touch within the Queensland camp, the state is stepping into new territory as eyes shift to 2021 when the champagne goes flat.
Gone are the days of Smith, Cronk, Boyd, Slater, Thurston, Thaiday, as Queensland welcome their greatest challenge yet: building a new dynasty.
The names are there to achieve it, and so is the attitude.
While many Blues fans may have been left fuming at particular moments within the match, and understandingly so, but the Maroons played gritty and in the face of their arch-rivals when the going got tough.
The Maroons didn’t back down from a fight and would let the Blues know all about it. They were tough and a touch cocky, attributes a championship side needs when called upon.