Tonight’s series decider had fallen victim to the usual hyperbole.
“Biggest Origin of all time”, “The decider to end all deciders”, “most important series in Origin”.
With all due respect to what has been an entertaining interstate series, I wouldn’t go that far.
What this series has been though is the craziest best of three in recent memory.
Everything that could have happened, has, and then some.
For the third straight Origin, the Blues have made big changes, while late injuries have further stretched the resources of the Maroons.
Game one saw Queensland, as huge underdogs, comprehensively outplay the Blues.
In truth, this game should have been a convincing victory to those wearing Maroon yet they escaped Suncorp with a tight win.
The loss prompted Brad Fittler to make wholesale changes including a recall for a man overlooked for the series opener in James Maloney.
The changes worked and the Blues absolutely thumped their northern rivals in the neutral fixture.
I honestly can’t remember a bigger turnaround in the space of two and a bit weeks.
An injury to Nathan Cleary, who was supposedly only chosen due to an injury to Mitchell Pearce, is out injured … to be replaced by Pearce.
Throw in barefoot training to ‘earth’ and a coach whisperer and we have a marvellous storyline leading into a monster decider.
Queensland enters the contest down on troops and battered following the Perth result.
They’re sans their superstar number one and are relying on a debutant in Corey Norman.
Oh, and they’ve still not confirmed who will line up to replace Ponga.
Meanwhile, NSW is flying into the contest on the back of a dominant Origin win, at home in front of an expected monster crowd.
Oh, and their halfback is the most maligned player in Origin history.
There are so many side storylines here to add to the main rivalry.
A debutant half vs a super experienced half in a shootout to deliver their first series win.
A superstar fullback-turned-half shifting to fullback for QLD to cover the loss of a superstar halfback-turned-half-turned-fullback.
Then there’s the fact David Klemmer was overlooked and recalled in farcical circumstances.
Tariq Sims was retained from Origin Two despite the fact Klemmer is arguably the game’s best prop.
Despite the Blues’ big win, they looked a prop short in their bench rotation.
Then Sims was suspended and Klemmer was recalled.
How about the reformation of the Roosters’ title-winning halves partnership of Pearce and Maloney?
Or the fact that Latrell Mitchell hasn’t been recalled despite being back to his dominant best since his game two omission.
NSW are entering the decider without a recognised club centre. QLD have just one.
QLD have named a utility who has seen around 20 minutes game time in the series to date and still doesn’t seem to have an identified role.
Of course, Moses Mbye was in the news prior to game two for an incredible, and frightening reason.
Then there’s the coach whisperer …
So often we are treated to a boring series. You know, the ones where both states name the same squads for three games and somebody wins.
This has absolutely not been that kind of series.
The injuries, the suspensions, the bolter selection no one saw coming, the turn around from game one to game two.
The recall of Pearce.
The fact the current Kangaroo number seven can’t get a start for his state side despite being fit and having played well since his return.
The return of Wade Graham to the biggest arena in rugby league with less than 90 minutes of footy under his belt since a complete rebuild of his knee.
Then there’s the fact QLD are paying a coach whisperer a ridiculous amount of money.
I wouldn’t say this game presents as the biggest game of all time. Nothing against the series, there were just bigger series’.
That said, no series in recent memory has come close in terms of off-field entertainment.
All the bookies and experts say the Blues are home but nothing in the world would shock me less than a QLD win.
Craziest decider of all time.
It’ll probably end 3-2 or something similar if the first two games and the goings on in between act as a preview.