Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
ABC News
ABC News

How the Maroons' bench won them State of Origin I against a fancied NSW Blues side

Harry Grant has been earmarked as a future Queensland captain, and based on Wednesday's effort, he could do it from the bench. (Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

NSW selectors were universally reviled when they picked Kurt Gidley to captain the side off the bench for the 2010 State Origin series.

And why not? It was every bit the disaster you would have expected for a team completely devoid of answers against a legendary Maroons outfit in their pomp.

Almost every word to describe an interchange player has a derisive, diminishing connotation — subs, deputies, back-ups, reserves, understudies — but the players on the bench are not simply the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th best players on the team. Far from it.

In 2020, NSW's bench strategy doomed them to a loss in the decider when they had no way to cover an injury to James Tedesco. Last year, Ben Hunt returned for the second game and showed why he should have been there all along.

And the 2022 Origin opener gave us another reminder of the importance of picking the right subs.

When the teams were picked, Origin maestro Phil Gould said he saw a side with "all the elements of great Queensland teams of years past", and that extended all the way through to number 17 on the sheet.

Any one of the Maroons who started sitting down in Sydney put on performances worthy, not only of the jersey, but of a captain's armband if need be.

Harry Grant, Lindsay Collins, Pat Carrigan and Jeremiah Nanai were every bit as important to the success of Queensland's opening gambit as the guys who got to stay on the field after the national anthem.

Carrigan carried his Broncos form into the Origin arena and took it up a few notches to match the moment. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Carrigan has been a massive part of the Broncos' winning run and all-around turnaround, but even his biggest stans would not have tipped the magnitude of his effort on Wednesday night.

After a quicksilver start to the game, rookie coach Billy Slater made the bold call to hook hulking forward leader Josh Papali'i and inject the lighter Carrigan.

The guy who started his career looking like what you get when you order Matt Gillett on Wish played his first Origin in the middle and was on top in every collision and contest, looking less like discount Gillett and more like Shane Webcke with flowing locks.

He never left the field again, with Papali'i returning for the final flurry, when things had slowed down and he could be at his most effective.

On the smaller side of things, Hunt is normally a lock for the number 14 spot (except, inexplicably, for the first two games of the 2021 series) but Slater and the selectors went in a different direction.

With Grant struggling for form and fitness and battling illness, the Maroons brains trust relieved him of the stress of starting at hooker, giving Hunt the honour and leaving Grant as a bench weapon.

Jeremiah Nanai was carried off the field but returned later on in the second half. (Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

Coming on for Hunt soon after Carrigan entered the fray with a bang, Grant played almost certainly the best game of his season to date, carving up the middle of the field with incisive, pinballing runs.

His arrival brought with it the hectic energy to match Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga, with Daly Cherry-Evans able to step back and sneak through for his game-breaking try early in the second half while every Blue was apparently looking anywhere else.

Hunt returned late and came up with big plays, with his superior kicking game pinning the Blues deep and his fleet feet breaking through the line, with only his own poor peripheral vision preventing him from laying on a game-sealing try for his skipper.

Lindsay Collins rediscovered the hectic pre-ACL form of his revelatory 2020 series, and 19-year-old Jeremiah Nanai, while playing limited minutes, dominated with his defensive power and pressure, as well as nabbing a baby Bob Lindner moment, rising from a seemingly devastating ankle injury to play out the game.

Lindsay Collins worked hard through the middle of the Blues defence. (Getty Images: Mark Kolbe)

There could be a temptation to reward the bench mob with an elevation to the starting side for game two, but that would misunderstand the role they played and the importance of it.

Ride the pine, fellas. Those tiny chairs may be uncomfortable, but it's the best seat in the house and after that game, no-one should thumb their nose at the mid- to high-teen jerseys again.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.