It doesn’t happen every year, but there are few better events on the Australian sporting calendar than a State of Origin decider.

There’s even an episode of the popular children’s show Bluey that revolves around one, such is the pervasive influence of Origin on culture and community on both sides of the border.

Of the 40 Origin series’ that have been played in the three-game format since it was introduced in 1982, 21 have gone to a deciding game. Tonight offers another chance for fans on either side of the Tweed to once again ride the highs and lows of sudden-death football.

Closing the gap

You might think by looking at the long-period of dominance Queensland enjoyed between 2006-17, and the bright period NSW Blues have enjoyed since that the decider is becoming a rarity in the modern game – but you’d be wrong.

Deciders have actually been on a steady increase since the 80s, serving as a testament to the high-quality and evenly-matched squads that both teams have been able to produce.

From 1982-1990 there were just three times the third game wasn’t a dead rubber. From 1991 to 2000 there were five. Between 2001-10 that number increased to six, and from 2011-20, seven of the 10 series were still alive by the third game.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: (L-R) Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith of the Maroons pose with the State of Origin Trophy and celebrate winning the series game three of the State Of Origin series between the QueenslandMaroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 12, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

During the period of Maroon dominance that saw 11 of 12 series won by the northerners, seven still required a decider, even if they largely served to shatter blue dreams and remind us all what a generational talent that Queensland side was.

By the numbers

Of the 21 deciders we’ve witnessed in State of Origin history, a significant majority have taken place in Brisbane. It’s well known that the Blues have only tasted final-game success in the Queensland capital twice, but the rarity of a Blues win is highlighted further when you consider there have been 12 deciders in Brisbane.

But the Blues haven’t had any more luck at home. When the deciding game has come to Sydney, the Blues have won just three out of eight.

The Maroons also won the only decider in Melbourne back in 2006, giving them an imposing record in the final game. Of the 21 deciders played, Queensland has won just over twice as many as NSW – 13 to 6. There has also been a tied decider in each state; 1999 and 2002.

Of the last 10 deciders, the Blues have won two.

First impression

Throughout the Origin campaign, a lot of emphasis is put on winning the first game as a way to increase the chances of series success. But a quick look at the numbers shows that, when it comes to an Origin decider, the Game 1 result is less relevant than you’d think.

Of the 21 series that have gone the distance, New South Wales have won the opening game seven times. Yet when it comes to the decider itself, they’ve turned just two of those early wins into a series victory for a conversion rate of just 37%.

While the numbers are slightly better for Queensland, they still don’t make a convincing argument for the importance of first-game success.

The Maroons have won the opening game 13 times when the series has gone to a decider. And despite their previously-mentioned period of dominance, they’ve only gone on with it seven times – a success rate of 53%. Underwhelming.

In the three deciders we’ve seen in the past five years of Origin football, only once has the team that won Game 1 won the series.

There are a host of interesting sub-plots surrounding tonight’s game, and it promises to be an epic. One can cherry-pick statistics all day in the desperate hope of trying to find an edge.

Brad Fittler knows what it takes to beat Queensland at home in a game of this importance. He did it in 1994. But there’s a reason the Blues have won just two deciders in Brisbane in 40 years.

The Maroons know how to assemble their depleted ranks and claim victory, just as they did far more recently in 2020. The statistics would argue that Queensland have a psychological advantage in deciders to go with the home ground advantage – yet the Blues will still start deserved favourites.

Whether it’s a thriller that goes down to the wire like the 2019 series that was won at the death by James Tedesco, or it’s a record-breaking demolition job akin to the Maroons 52-6 victory in 2015, every gain, every try, every hit and every error is exponentially more pronounced on arguably the biggest stage in rugby league. And we'll be talking about for weeks, if not years to come.

It might not be good for the heart rate of passionate fans, but there’s nothing like another Origin decider.


2020 - QLD win in Brisbane
2019 - NSW win in Sydney
2017 - QLD win in Brisbane
2015 - QLD win in Brisbane
2013 - QLD win in Sydney
2012 - QLD win in Brisbane
2011 - QLD win in Brisbane
2008 - QLD win in Sydney
2006 - QLD win in Melbourne
2005 - NSW win in Brisbane
2004 - NSW win in Sydney
2002 - Series tied in Sydney
2001 - QLD win in Brisbane
1999 - Series tied in Brisbane
1998 - QLD win in Sydney
1994 - NSW win in Brisbane
1992 - NSW win in Sydney
1991 - QLD win in Brisbane
1987 - QLD win in Brisbane
1983 - QLD win in Brisbane
1982 - QLD win in Sydney


  1. Quick correction: The 2002 series was drawn. The Final score of game 3 in Sydney was 18-18 as QLD missed the conversion. The series was drawn 1-1.

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