This week our worst Rugby League nightmare came true when the competition was suspended. With no return of the game we love in sight, we’ve decided to look back in time.
Each hump day we’ll be presenting “What if Wednesday!?” – a fun, or sometimes not so fun, depending on who you support, look at big moments in Rugby League. And what might have happened if it had gone differently.
These are meant to be fun. They are purely speculative and overall just an avenue to distract from the negativity of the world. Please keep that in mind when ripping in below in the comments.
Today, we look at one of the forgotten moments that lead to one of the most unforgettable dynasties in Rugby League, and sporting history: the Queensland Maroons:
What If … Brett Hodgson hadn’t thrown that pass?
If you ask a Queenslander just how their near decade of Origin dominance started, the general reaction would be a mixture of “Darren Lockyer mate” and “Who cares!?”
As a New South Walesman and they’ll be unanimous in saying it started with “that pass”.
It was 2006. Melbourne. The decider! New South Wales were up 14-10 with nine minutes to go, seemingly on track to retain the Origin Shield for the third straight year, bringing their reign to four years.
I remember it vividly. Just moments before the Blues were cruising at 14-4. Queensland were gone. They hadn’t won a series since 2001. 2002 had been a drawn series, so QLD help the Shield until 2003.
The “Origin is over as a concept” headlines were flying, as they did every time the Blues put a few series wins a row together.
Although the Maroons had belted the Blues in Game Two, Graham Murray and his team rang the changes and brought in a younger, more dynamic side including the names Matt Cooper and Paul Gallen.
Fans were ready to celebrate on neutral ground. Journalists had their “NSW retain: Origin is done!” reports ready to go.
Suddenly Queensland went the length of the field and made it 14-10. No biggie, the Blues had defended well all night. If anything this would prove to be a wake-up call or sorts.
Queensland were out of ideas. They kicked long. The Blues recovered with little difficulty. Surely now the Blues experienced heads would step up and ice the contest and the series?
Then it happened … that pass. Fans collectively held their breathe as Brett Hodgson, from dummy half, threw arguably the worst pass in the history of Rugby League.
I swear the world hit slow motion. That eerie music reserved for horror film credits played as the ball went absolutely nowhere near where it was intended, bouncing up and falling into the lap of Darren Lockyer who accepted the gift with glee. He scores under the posts, the QLD’ers win the Shield.
The Origin Shield wouldn’t return south of the Tweed until 2014. It wouldn’t remain in Blues territory for more than one series until 2018 into 2019. Queensland won 8 straight series and 11 of 12. The dominance was second only to that of the All Blacks dominance over a hapless Wallabies.
But .. BUT … what if that pass hadn’t been thrown?
Now of course history may very well have played out in the exact same manner regardless. Queensland had the momentum and the majority of the crowd behind them. Lockyer was in ridiculous form, and known for winning games at the death.
Queensland may have gone on their dominant run regardless of this result. As mentioned, Lockyer was at the peak of his powers. Origin mainstays Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday were becoming increasingly important members of this squad.
That said, maybe it wouldn’t.
The focus seemed to shift slightly in 2007 for the Blues. A young Jarrod Mullen was blooded, well before he was ready in hindsight. This lead to repeat changes in the halves that would never really settle, certainly not to any success.
Kimmorley, Anasta, Bird, Wallace, Pearce, Campese, Barrett, and Lyon were used in different combinations almost game to game, let alone series to series.
If Hodgson hadn’t thrown that pass and NSW ice that game, there is no panic. There is no need to throw Mullen to the wolves to find the next Joey in order to lead the next dynasty.
Gower and Gasnier were the halves that night. I can’t remember the form of either player at that time truthfully but Orign-winning halves don’t usually get dropped. Even if they did, you have to believe Anasta and Kimmorley would have been the halves combo if they were defending.
This would have given Mullen enough time to continue his rapid development. He may very well have realised his talent and wracked up 20 caps for the Blues rather than the sad end to his Origin career then his career in the game.
Big jump to make, but if NSW win, there is no panic and Mullen isn’t picked before he’s ready.
Murray probably cements himself in the job also. Ricky Stuart lead his state to Origin victory in 2005, and while Murray would also oversee the 2007 series, a second straight loss sealed his fate.
Stable halfback and stable coach, sounding familiar?
Verdict: I can’t see anything other than a Queensland win in 2007 regardless of the horror pass. The squad’s talent and ability far surpassed that of their Blue counterparts for many years.
If that pass hits Gasner’s chest, the Blues win that series though. They had all the answers that game other than a freaky, length of the field try.
Gower takes over, kicks deep, Blues pin the Maroons in the corner. They make a mistake trying something, Blues ice the series in Melbourne.
If Brett Hodgson doesn’t throw that pass, the dynasty still exists, yet it has to wait one more series.