King Wally’s ultimate insult: ‘They don’t get it’
Queensland icon Wally Lewis says NSW do not understand the true spirit of State of Origin as "The King" declared Wayne Bennett had unearthed a new generation of Maroons heroes.
The Maroons are basking in the glory of one of the greatest wins in Origin's 40-year history after eight debutants inspired injury-hit Queensland's stunning 18-14 boilover of the Blues in the series opener on Wednesday night.
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Lewis was at the epicentre of Queensland's most epic triumphs, including a famous 16-12 upset in 1989 when the Emperor of Lang Park scored a solo try to sink the Blues at a rain-soaked SFS.
Three decades later, Lewis was at Adelaide Oval to witness the latest demonstration of Maroons mateship - and why the Blues will never match Queensland's spirit.
The Blues are already at each other's throats after the shock collapse, with NSW legend Andrew Johns calling for the axing of debutant five-eighth Luke Keary.
Lewis, a veteran of 34 Origin matches for the Maroons, says the Blues will always struggle to embrace the Origin values at the core of Queensland's slew of trademark fightbacks.
"You have to question if NSW understand Origin," Lewis said.
"They claim to know what Origin spirit is. The Blues say they have got it and you have to accept their claim, but I know Queensland have got the Origin spirit and NSW simply might not have it.
"I remember growing up, for years we were belted by NSW, sometimes by our very own Queenslanders (such as Arthur Beetson) who were forced to play for NSW.
"That always drove us as Queenslanders.
"All those years when NSW would flog us (in the pre-Origin years of the 1960s and '70s) became embarrassing.
"Queensland just have this sense of pride in their jumper, but this will only motivate NSW to be very hard to beat in Game Two."
It was fitting that Queensland's fighting win at Adelaide Oval came on the 40th anniversary of the Origin concept that was born the night Beetson led the Maroons onto Lang Park in 1980.
Like the night Artie led his Maroons comrades into Origin battle, Queensland were again rank outsiders. Bennett's eight debutants AJ Brimson, Xavier Coates, Kurt Capewell, Phillip Sami, Jake Friend, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Lindsay Collins and Jaydn Su'A were expected to melt in the Origin cauldron.
Instead, it was Queensland's debutants ball.
Trailing 10-0, it was Origin virgins Capewell and Brimson who led the riposte, combining for a 50th-minute try before four-pointers to Coates (54th) and Cameron Munster (66th) buried the Blues.
Capewell, who took a groin injury into Origin I, could barely walk for the final 30 minutes. Friend made 52 tackles. Coates, just 19, played like a 20-gamer. Brimson's composure at the back evoked images of a young, cool, fearless Darren Lockyer.
When the full-time siren sounded, Maroons players hugged as if they had won the grand final. This was a win for the Queenslander ethos. For courage. For mateship. For icons such as Beetson and Dick "Tosser" Turner, the late Maroons team manager revered as the Godfather of Origin.
"It's a massive win, one of the greatest I have seen," said former Maroons skipper Lewis.
"Tosser Turner and Artie Beetson will be up there in heaven with big smiles on their faces having witnessed what these Queensland blokes have achieved.
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"Arthur Beetson used to say to us, give it your best and if your performance isn't good enough to win, then you can go to sleep knowing you have given your best.
"This was an Artie Beetson-type of performance. They displayed his character and heart and I wish he was here to see it.
"I am so proud as a Queenslander. This will never be forgotten as one of the greatest wins in Origin history."
Lewis lauded the desire and hunger of Bennett's Babes.
"The rookies were outstanding," The King said.
"The determination they had was inspirational.
"I'm sure they will sit down one day and realise what they managed to achieve. There wasn't a single player out there who didn't live up to the reputation Queensland have set.
"These debutants now know they are good enough, they know they have become State of Origin legends in the space of 80 minutes football."
Originally published as King Wally's ultimate insult: 'They don't get it'