League: Great State of Origin moments

Justin Poore of the Blues and Michael Crocker of the Maroons throw punches during game two of the 2009 series. Photo / Getty Images
Justin Poore of the Blues and Michael Crocker of the Maroons throw punches during game two of the 2009 series. Photo / Getty Images

New South Wales and Queensland meet in Brisbane tonight for the first State of Origin clash of 2014.

When the two sides kick off shortly after 10pm (NZT) they will begin writing the latest chapter in one of sport's greatest rivalries, pitting National Rugby League teammates against one other.

Tonight's opener is crucial for the Laurie Daley-coached NSW Blues, who must win to have any hope of stopping Mal Meninga's Maroons from winning an eighth consecutive Origin series victory.

In preparation for the match, nzherald.co.nz takes a look back at some great State of Origin moments.

Game one, 1980 - Beetson leads Queensland revival
When State Origin first started in 1980 many people doubted it would become the success it is today. However, the late Arthur Beetson, who was called up from Parramatta's reserve grade side to captain Queensland, silenced the critics with a brutal display to carry Queensland to victory.

His crunching hit on Parramatta teammate Mick Cronin helped give rise to the Orgin catchcry - "State against state, mate against mate".

Game two, 1991 - Wally Lewis versus Mark Geyer
Wally Lewis, or "the King" as he is known in Queensland, always played his best football for the Maroons and with eight man of the match awards is arguably State of Origin's greatest performer.

Lewis, who captained the Maroons a record 30 times, spearheaded Queensland's dominance throughout the 1980s and although he produced many memorable moments with the ball in-hand, the one which is guaranteed to feature on any Origin highlights reel is when the King stood toe-to-toe with a fiery Mark Geyer in game two of the 1991 series in Sydney.

Game three, 1993 - Harragon v Bella
The final game of the series was a deadrubber after NSW won the first two matches but it still provided plenty of entertainment. Queensland's Martin Bella and NSW's Paul Harragon earned 10 minutes in the bin for trading blows in a classic Origin bout. Rivals Steve Walters and Ben Elias were also sent off the field for their part in the fight.

Game one, 1994 - Maroons back from the dead
Down 12-10 deep in their half with just 40 seconds left in the game, Queensland produced one of the most amazing tryscoring movements of all time. The play featured 11 passes and was finished off by Mark Coyne in the right corner for a remarkable come-from-behind victory.

Game two, 1995 - 'Queenslander' means fight
A scrum in the opening few minutes and legend has it that NSW wanted to start the match with a fight. The codeword to kick off some biff was "Queenslander" and it didn't take long before the hated words were uttered by someone in the Blues' forwards.

The scrum doesn't even set before arms were flaying and punches connecting giving many fans the main reason why they watch Origin - for the biff. Manly teammates Danny Moore (Queensland) and John Hopate (NSW) provided the highlight of the brawl - which no doubt would have made the next Sea Eagles training session very awkward.

Game three, 2001 - Allan Langer's return
Under a shroud of secrecy Queensland coach Wayne Bennett brought former Brisbane and Australian halfback back from England to steer the Maroons around in the decider. The move proved to be a masterstroke with the 34-year-old Langer defying the odds and inspiring his side to a massive 40-14 win in Brisbane.

Game one, 2005 - Golden intercept
Golden point extra time was only introduced into Origin in 2003, ruling out the likelihood of any more drawn series, and it provided a classic moment two years later. Locked up at 20-20 NSW halfback Brett Kimmorley threw a long pass which was picked off by Matt Bowen who had an easy 40 metres run to the tryline.

Games two and three, 2005 - Andrew Johns back to his best
After losing game one in extra time in Brisbane, New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart called on league legend Andrew Johns' services for the remainder of the series. This was seen as a huge gamble by the NSW coach as Johns' past two seasons were wrecked by injury and he had only played two games in 2005.

But "Joey" answered his state's call with a sublime man of the match performance in game two, equal to or better than anything the great Wally Lewis produced for Queensland. He backed that up in game three with another outstanding game to secure an unlikely series victory for NSW - their last to date.

Game three, 2009 - Price king-hit against Blues
Queensland prop Steve Price was knocked out while trading blows with opposition prop Brett White as New South Wales scored a 28-16 win to avoid a series whitewash in 2009. Trouble had been brewing after several encounters during the series, including Justin Poore and Michael Crocker trading blows in game two.

White appeared to land the decisive punch just as teammate Trent Waterhouse joined in the fray, charging down the popular Maroons forward and leaving him sprawled on the Brisbane turf.

Price's coach at the Warriors, Ivan Cleary, witnessed the encounter which robbed him of his inspirational captain. "With all due respect to Pricey I couldn't imagine him going great in a fight," he said of the incident.

Waterhouse's role in charging in and tackling Price saw him become the first NSW player to be sent off in Origin history.

Games two and three, 2011 - Gallen's gallant effort and Lockyer's farewell
The 2011 series provided two unforgettable moments. After losing game one and staring down the barrel of a sixth straight series defeat, NSW captain Paul Gallen led from the front after switching to prop. He played the entire 80 minutes, finishing with 27 runs, nine more than anyone else on the field. Gallen inspired the Blues to an 18-8 win and forced a game three decider for Darren Lockyer's last Origin match.

The Queensland great playing in his 36th Origin match went out a winner after his side went out to a 24-0 lead after 36 minutes. The Blues closed the gap to 14 but never looked like denying Lockyer from going out a winner - his seventh series in a Queensland jumper.

Game one, 2013 - Gallen vs Myles
Gallen, perhaps in an attempt to inspire his team to break Queenland's run of dominance, decided to bring the biff early in last year's series. Just before halftime in game one, the Maroons' Nate Myles took exception to a swinging arm in a tackle from Gallen, getting to his feet and giving the NSW skipper a bit of a push.

It was a minor clash that happens every game in league but what happened next was different. Instead of turning around and getting on with it, Gallen opted for a swift left to the jaw followed by a hooked right.

Myles, on the other hand, seemed completely uninterested in the fight, taking both punches without offering a reply, before both teams piled in.

- nzherald.co.nz

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