Well there you go sportsfans, so it is just like I said it would be, and no bastard can accuse me of crowing after the event for I called the result months ago. That young Cumquat made a folly of youth and ignorantly ignored my sage selection advice in game 1 is now yesterday’s news, and all I’ll say about the matter is that youth is wasted on the young and leave it at that.
‘That’s rather magnanimous of you Archie’ I can hear you thinking, and the temptation’s there to keep you believing it, but the truth is within ten seconds of the full-time whistle blowing the phone rang and when I answered with a mighty ‘Queenslander!’ it was Mrs Cumquat Snr on the end of the phone calling to thank me for clipping her young Kevvie around the ear and knocking some sense into him during our recent secret one on one out the back of the Karaoke Bar at the Bunger, and in the process saving his career.
After I’d talked the lovely old duck out of ringing Gus Gould and nominating me as man of the match, and we’d had a chat about Taking the Pisasale and a few of the things he’s been up to that are yet to hit the papers, Mrs Cumquat asked me if I’d grant her a very special favor and told me that it would mean the world to her if I did.
Would I forgive her young bloke for his Game 1 selection insolence was the ask, and what could I say other than ‘Sure Mrs C, for you it would be my great pleasure’. And so here I am, and there you are, and Mrs Cumquat’s the happiest bird playing the poker machines in Bundamba tonight, and Jonathon Thurston’s just jumped Weary Dunlop on Australia’s Bravest Blokes list, and let me tell you it doesn’t get much better for any digger than being vice-captain on Albert Jacka’s team.
How the hell did JT pull that one off while playing 60 minutes plus with only one arm?
Dead set the great man was having a shocker in the 40 minutes immediately after he copped an elbow while tackling a charging bull and the shoulder went, an absolute bloody shocker. I’ve never seen Thurston play worse; watching him make mistake after mistake as he botched plays and kicks by going a fraction early in an attempt to protect his busted wing was like cutting yourself with broken glass.
It wasn’t his fault. If he came off our bench full of forwards meant that Queensland had only Mickey Morgan to replace him, and that meant we’d be stuffed if any other of backs went down ‘cos JT was going to be straight on the needle and ice and into a sling if he put his good hand up and surrendered and he knew it.
So like the heroes of the inglorious Gallipoli campaign Jonathon sucked it in and soldiered on, and when Will Chambers copped a knockout blow the whole Pineapple State was saying a silent prayer of thanks that did.
That wasn’t the defining moment of the game though, and as brilliant as it was Great Dane’s winning try wasn’t either.
The real moment of truth, the bullet that changed the Origin world, came about 20 minutes into the second half when the astute footy fan could see JT say to himself ‘F*ck this the shoulder’s rooted anyway and the boys are dead if f I don’t get out of the trench and lead us home.’
Cometh the hour cometh the man.
And JT cometh, at a million miles an hour.
Without and warning, like a Townsville summer’s storm Thurston -who just seconds before shuffling across the Queensland attacking line like a senior citizen and offloading soft-handed lollipop passes to his backs while the Blues defensive line was 5 meters away to prevent their big men from target-smashing his shoulder and ending his night, and his team’s series – he suddenly exploded back to life .
Thirty meters out from the NSW line and with nothing particular happening Thurston suddenly called for the ball, and then from out of nowhere hit the line at tremendous speed. Like a coked-up matador moving faster than the eye can follow he jinked, stepped, dummied, sliced and swerved, and in the space of five seconds JT had carved the seemingly impenetrable NSW defensive line into little pieces, straight up the middle, and had plunged a knife straight into the center of his opposition’s hearts.
The NSW players faces were suddenly drained of color, and their eyes grew wide, as if a ghost has appeared right before them. No, not a ghost, a dreadful, deadly apparition. A palpable tremor of terrible shock and fear shot across their line like a 500 volt current.
Half an hour earlier after seeing how badly Thurston was playing and realising that the number six’s shoulder was absolutely shot, Coach Daley had quickly formed the conclusion that it was humanly impossible for a one-armed man in such pain and so restricted in movement to present a threat to soldiers in this supreme theater of war, and had order his men to abandon their decade long defensive tactic of triple-team marking Thurston when the Queenslanders had the ball.
He’d redeployed the defenders to a couple of meters either side of the ruck and directed them to double up on the danger men Cronk and Slater, and for the half hour that Thurston spent seemingly all but out of the game it had worked.
Jarred Hayne was playing a floating role across the left hand side of the defense and monstering any Queenslander who dared come near, the backrowers in the middle of the ruck were all over Cronk like flies, and his quickest tackle men were watching and following Slater around the park closer than an ASIO team surveillance team tasked to arrest a terrorist.
Thurston’s injury had allowed Daley to strangle the Maroons main attack men. He had effectively shut down the remaining 2 of the 3 members of the deadly spine that still had 2 arms and legs down, and prevented them from getting good ball out to the fringes of the ruck, in the process neutering the speed king combination of Chambers and Gagai lurking out on the right, and handcuffing the Boyd/Holmes dynamic debut duo on the left.
The Queensland attack was going nowhere. The game looked in the bag.
It had been a piece of tactical on-the-run genius by Daley, and the NSW coach was trying hard not to smirk as the cameras panned to him in the box.
No-one expected Thurston to rise from the dead and slay them.
No one from south of the border where they still truly believe that Joey Johns is the greatest player in the modern game anyway.
The Turks didn’t expect a bloke to jump into a trench solo and take on a dozen armed to teeth enemy soldiers who were holding his mates captive either, but great men do what ordinary people can’t even imagine., and no matter what the personal cost may be, they will never ever abandon a mate.
That’s what makes them great.
There are lots of very good players on the NSW team, but there aren’t any great ones.
The Blues lost the plot when JT sprung back to life.
You could have written the script about what would happen next, and it did.
In the end JT ran left off a play, his dazed and confused NSW markers followed, Slater came around the back of the line the other way and entered it to the right, Cronk gave it him, he drew 2 defenders and gave it to Morgan, he threw a brilliant off the ground pass to Gagai and you don’t stop a Great Dane on the fly from 10 yards out so it was 16-all with a few minutes to play.
Then JT lined up the kick from on his wrong side from the sideline, smart men mortgaged their houses and hearts and souls for a stake to bet on him kicking it, he did, Queensland won, Laurie Daley almost cried, and that was all she wrote.
Thank you Archie.
That’s okay Queensland.
It was my pleasure.