50 Stories, 50 Years - Origin Sharks
It may have taken them 49 years to claim that elusive premiership, but during that journey the Sharks have made a major contribution in the Origin arena.
Sharks Immortal Steve Rogers was there in 1980 at Lang Park, on the day the State v State, Mate v Mate, Origin phenomena was born.
From Rogers in game one, Paul Khan as the first Queensland Shark the following year, to the likes of Andrew Ettingshausen, Gavin Miller and of course Paul Gallen leading the NSW challenge, Mat Rogers, Chris McKenna and Martin Lang representing north of the border and the Sharks and Origin have long been intertwined.
This year that tradition continues with four Sharks to run out on Wednesday night for NSW in game one of the 2017 series at Suncorp Stadium.
Wade Graham, James Maloney, Andrew Fifita and Jack Bird follow in the footsteps of those NSW Blues to have gone before, that total of Sharks now standing at 21 NSW players over the 37 years.
On the other side of the equation eight Queenslanders have pulled on the Maroon jersey while playing their club footy at the Sharks.
Throw is two from each state who played during the SuperLeague season of 1997, Danny Lee and Sean Ryan for NSW, Geoff Bell and Paul Green for the Maroons and the numbers, not to mention the list of talent supplied to each state, is certainly impressive.
Rogers may have started it, but many have since taken the baton and run with it, into Suncorp, ANZ, the Sydney Football Stadium, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and even in Veterans Stadium in Long Beach, California, in what is described as rugby league’s toughest, intense and most highly anticipated contest.
In going back to the start, Rogers and his NSW teammates couldn’t get the job done in 1980 as an Arthur Beetson-led Queensland upstaged their interstate rivals.
Of the many Sharks to follow, some would stand out, others having varying impact on State of Origin history, with going down in the record books remembered for playing on the games’ biggest stage.
As the years go by, some will just have bigger stories that others to tell of their Origin experience.
A 21-year-old Andrew Ettingshausen debuted in 1987 and what a first-up Origin game it was.
Playing alongside Sharks clubmate Mark McGaw, the Blues seemed destined for another heartbreaking defeat, until something amazing took place.
Ettingshausen saw some space down the right, passed to McGaw, who dashed down the touchline.
Set to be run down by the cover defence McGaw aimed a pass inside for Ettingshausen, the ball was knocked down by Queenslander Dale Shearer, spilling into the in goal with a scramble for the football resulting.
Sticking out one his long arms McGaw appeared first to touch down. With the Lang Park crowd screaming, Maroons coach Wayne Bennett grimacing, referee Mick Stone pointed to the spot and made the brave decision of try.
NSW win 18-14 and that try, with the Sharks centre pairing or ET and McGaw heavily featuring, is likely to be an Origin highlight for many more years to come. And luckily for Stone, the footage will show the correct decision was made.
Ettingshausen would go on to play another 26 Origin matches for NSW, three more in the SuperLeague Tri Series, in a variety of positions including centre, wing and fullback, but none bigger than that first one.
(‘That try’ - CLICK HERE – video courtesy QRL website)
Gallen, like Ettingshausen another to excel at Origin level, played 24 games, a good percentage of those as NSW captain. As good as his form is this season, some say had he not retired from rep footy last year that number would be increasing on Wednesday night.
There were disappointments along the way for the Sharks skipper, the euphoria of lifting the trophy in triumph in 2014 the highlight, an 80-minute performance in the front row in a winning NSW performance and there was ‘that punch’, in the 39th minute of game one, 2013.
It was a moment when Gallen responded to Nate Myles in a way nobody was expecting, especially Myles but also his Queensland teammates.
(‘That punch’ - CLICK HERE – video courtesy of Youtube)
The rules in regards to punching and how it was tolerated, both in Origin and in the NRL, would change from that night onwards.
And there were many more Sharks-inspired memories, too many to detail, dating back to that first game of State of Origin at Lang Park in 1980.
So good luck to Graham, Fifita, Maloney and Bird at Suncorp tomorrow night and may they create their own special piece of Origin folklore.
SHARKS IN ORIGIN
NSW (21 – 2 SL Tri Series)
Danny Lee *
Sean Ryan *
Queensland (8 – 2 SL Tri Series)
* SuperLeague Tri Series