To get selected to represent your state at Origin level is often considered the highest honour in Rugby League. That phone call from your Origin coach comes with a lot of added pressure that debutants may not have experienced before. Headlines questioning if you’re ready, people that may not have heard of you before suddenly calling you a grub or a flog in comment sections.
There’s no better way to shut all the doubters up than by running out and having a blinder on the biggest Rugby League stage. Having a huge Origin debut is every player’s dream but it’s often easier said then done. Look at Justin Hodges’ debut or just anytime Mitchell Pearce threw on a Blues jersey. It can often be a challenge to elevate your game to that next level that is needed to dominate in Origin.
Fortunately for these five players, they rose to the task and had dream starts to their State Of Origin careers.
Is there a player in the modern era that is more built for State of Origin than Munster? Munster got the call up to the Maroons for Game 3 of the 2017 series after an injury to all-time great Johnathan Thurston saw him ruled out for the season. The kid from Rockhampton rose to the occasion and played as if he was a 20 game veteran.
His unpredictable running game bamboozled NSW defenders all night leading to 148 run metres, 6 tackle breaks and a linebreak. Once he’d suckered the Blues into committing to the run, Munster showed off his incredible improvisational talent and passing game finishing with 2 try assists that seemingly came out of nowhere.
He also showed incredible grit and leadership in the defensive line making 21 tackles including a huge tackle on Blues captain Tedesco that saw him driven all the way back to where he caught the ball for a kick return.
Munster put on a show that night and was easily Queensland’s best on ground even with three future immortals on the field.
Arguably the greatest Origin debut of all time, the Eels’ fullback stole the show in a Blues team that featured a whopping 9 debutants. Hodgson ran for a jaw dropping 390 metres, throw in 14 tackle busts, a lazy 6 line breaks, a try, a try assist… oh and he converted one too. The game finished off as a blowout. 32 – 4 to the Blues and you’d think Hodgson would have done enough to win man of the match, but Andrew Johns got the nod over Hodgson.
For many, an Origin performance as iconic as Hodgson’s would be what they would be remembered for forever but when I mention Brett Hodgson playing State of Origin what do you remember about him most?… There was another memorable moment that he had that I can’t quite put my finger on…
Game 1, 2006. Mal Meninga gives a young 19-year-old with just 22 games of NRL to his name a chance on the wing and what we witnessed was the start of one of the most most dominant origin careers of all time.
Inglis was integral to the Maroons on both sides of the ball that night, scoring two tries in a 14 point comeback that sent the game to golden point and making a huge try saving tackle to keep the Maroons in the game.
Those 2 tries weren’t the end of it for Greg, in the next 12 years Inglis went on to play 32 games for the Maroons and after it was all said and done, finished with 18 Origin tries which is the most ever in State Of Origin.
After an incredibly dominant 2020 season that saw the Panthers go down in the Grand Final, electric winger Brian “Bizza” To’o got the call up from Coach Fittler for Game 1 of the 2021 season.
Due to COVID & border restrictions, State of Origin was taken to Townsville for the first time ever in 2021. Running out in North Queensland where rugby league is considered a religion wasn’t going to be an easy task for any Blues player let alone a player on debut like To’o but the winger took it all in his stride and shut up an entire state all by himself.
Bizza lead the team in run metres, post contact metres, line breaks and bagged himself 2 meat pies for his trouble as well. It was just another day in the office for To’o and he played a huge part in the 50 – 6 belting of the Maroons in what was an incredibly dominant series for the Blues.
To’o is set to play his second series in 2022 and if 2021 is anything to go off, the Maroons will have a few headaches to deal with on the wing.
Coming off the bench for the Maroons in 2020 after just 17 NRL games, Cameron Smith’s replacement at the Storm looked like the Maroons long term replacement at Hooker as well. Grant came on after just 24 minutes to replace Jake Friend and completely took over.
His unpredictable dummy half play saw him finish with 7 runs for 80 metres and more linebreaks than anyone else on the park. Combine that with the second most tackles by a Queenslander and the try that secured the series win for Queensland one can argue that the Yepoon junior had a pretty decent day out.
Grant will allegedly come off the bench for Queensland in Game 1 of the series this year, will we get more of the same heroics from the young hooker?