In tears after the game, he said, ”It’s been a long time,” and that it was.
These were the words of Mr. Versatility, New South Wales’ (NSW) Origin and Parramatta Eels fullback extraordinaire and key player in NSW’s 2014 historic and memorable series win, Jarryd Hayne.
Hayne happened to attain man-of-the-match in Game 1 of the 2014 series, with a miraculous win to NSW in Queensland territory. Although this story is not just about Jarryd Hayne, Hayne deserves a mention first up, as do some of the other NSW players, as it is about the whole NSW Origin team winning the 2014 State of Origin series after eight long, hard years.
Hayne’s powerful and infectious positivity and play-making ability are undoubted. Players and management and fans and spectators alike all knew Hayne was going to get something started in 2014, and what a better place to get things going than right in the heart of the Queensland machine in Queensland territory.
In Game 1, Hayne made important line breaks, made try-saving tackles, made splitting kicks down-field, and of course the most important, chipped in with a try. In fact, Hayne, with all the years he had played for NSW Origin, in those eight years he and his fellow teammates had to put up with, he had made the most tries and line breaks for NSW, but came in third to winger Darius Boyd second and first centre, and former fab-four Melbourne Storm wizard, Greg Inglis, both from Queensland, as stated in pre-Game 2 commentary by another NSW Origin legend of the game, halfback Hall-of-Famer Andrew Johns.
However, man-of-the-match for Game 2 was NSW Origin Captain and most deserving of all, Paul Gallen. Gallen in particular did not stop all game in Game 2, putting himself on the line in attack and defense and providing a mighty solid example all-round.
In front of a packed home crowd at ANZ Stadium, at the former Sydney 2000 Olympic Games site in Sydney Olympic Park, there were so many close man-of-the-match performances from the NSW Origin team other than Paul Gallen.
There was second-rower and Melbourne Storm quiet-strong achiever, Ryan Hoffman, who would have definitely been close behind Gallen for the man-of-the-match honors. Then there was dummy-half No.9 Robbie Farah, Jarryd Hayne himself, Aaron Woods with some big tape wrapped around his head indicating a bruising encounter, enforcers Greg Bird and Beau Scott and two new NSW origin champion halves combinations from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs No. 7 Trent Hodkinson, whose brilliant dummy and try got the win in Game 2 and series completion for NSW, and No. 6 Josh Reynolds, who was into everything, including a physical close call (forearms, face-rubbing and head-butting galore) towards the end of the Game 2 with Queenslander fellow half, champion No. 7 Jonathon Thurston; one currently plays for the Bulldogs (Reynolds) and one used to play for the Bulldogs (Thurston). Game 2 and the series win was also in memory of the Morris brothers, Josh and Brett, who got injured during the bruising encounter with Queensland in Game 1 and were close behind Hayne for man-of-the-match performances in Game 1.
The Origin players, especially NSW, may have just figured it out, that getting into on-field violence is just not worth it. There were some very close calls during Game 2, with Reynolds and Thurston the closest it came to an Origin fight.
Putting fighting aside, there were quite a few injuries in Game 1, in Queensland territory, as it was always going to be a physical encounter for both teams, especially NSW. However, it was Queensland who endured most of the injuring onslaught in Game 1 with NSW somehow managing to bring down the three quarters of the Melbourne Storm fab-four, with No. 7 half-back Cooper Cronk, experiencing the worst of the injuries with a broken arm, then fullback and Queensland’s version of Jarryd Hayne, Billy Slater, and Queensland Captain and No.9 Cameron Smith. Slater and Smith both played in Game 2, but Cronk was still injured.
The 6-4 score line to NSW in Game 2 indicated a tight encounter. NSW got Queensland in their territory in Game 1, so it was expected for Queensland to win in NSW territory in Game with pressure on both sides. Yet, most of the pressure was on NSW because they needed to win Game 2 to win the series, for the first time in eight years, and avoid another pressure-cooker-of-a-match, and possibly another disheartening series loss, back in Queensland.
From being 4-0 down from Thurston’s penalty conversions, and having a similar scenario to Game 1 by having to constantly defend close to their try line, the NSW Origin pack somehow lifted with gifted runs and play-making from everyone to get close to the Queensland try-line; and then…the Trent Hodkinson pearl-of-a-try. Normally it was Reynolds doing the running around or Hodkinson would have tried to lure the Queensland defense in before getting the ball out to the remaining free backs. But this time, Hodkinson quietly knew he was in with a chance, and he was, dummying and opening up and breaking the normally ultra-solid Queensland defense to score relatively close to the posts.
The word stated was relatively because Hodkinson was also the goal kicker and the pressure was on again to convert the try and possibly take the lead for the first time in Game 2, so close to the end of 80 minutes and hold on to win the game…and he did it. The fans and spectators at ANZ Stadium knew NSW was near victory, but it was not over for Queensland, who threw what they could at the NSW defense. But Trent did it, he did it for NSW pride, which took a battering over those eight years, but had now experienced a revival and chance of hope for future Origins.
And who was the last man with the ball, running towards the NSW Origin fans and spectators as the final hooter went off, Jarryd Hayne.
NSW have got nothing to lose going into Game 3 at Queensland and should try and test themselves to win up in Queensland territory once again. But either way, NSW has got the 2014 series win.
A fitting end to a NSW Origin team who never gave up, and finally won.
Personal Experiences: – I was at my younger brother’s place in Sydney on Wednesday, 18th June, 2014 watching Game 2 of the 2014 State of Origin series and was barracking for the NSW Blues.
– I used to play and follow Rugby League in Australia when I was younger, playing for the local team in the area and supporting the Wests Tigers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs from the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia.