Andrew Fifita, take a bow. It was the night the controversial Cronulla prop finally stamped his authority on the Origin arena.
With a performance Arthur Beetson would have been proud of, Fifita solidified his place as the game’s premier front rower – producing an inspired outing to lead the Blues to a 28-4 victory in the series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Almost three years to the day Jarryd Hayne earned praise for producing arguably the best individual performance in NSW history on the same ground, Fifita put his name up in lights alongside him with a try and a try assist on a night that is likely to be remembered as the changing of the guard in Origin.
No Johnathan Thurston, no Greg Inglis, no Matt Scott, no chance … apparently. And judging by the dominance of NSW in game one, it appears the curtains are closing on a dynasty that many believe rugby league won’t ever see again.
The 27-year-old Fifita, who has earned his fair share of detractors after his controversial support of one-punch killer Kieran Loveridge, was public enemy No.1 in Brisbane before a ball was even kicked.
That certainly didn’t change after full-time after terrorising Queensland with a barnstorming display that included nine tackle breaks and almost 200 metres in his first Origin appearance in the run-on side in eight games for NSW.
Fifita was far and away the best player on the field, but Blues fullback James Tedesco put aside a season to forget to leave Suncorp Stadium with the tag as the second-best player on the paddock in NSW’s biggest win in enemy territory.
In only his second Origin game, Tedesco proved almost impossible to stop, bagging a try and setting up another as he rediscovered his mojo.
But it was his never-say-die attitude in defence, saving a couple of tries with his relentless pursuit of the ball carrier that would have pleased coach Laurie Daley the most.
Like they did in 2014 when they last won an Origin series, the Blues will head to ANZ Stadium looking to wrap up the series after a victory on away soil.
Three years ago, in the corresponding game of the series, Hayne etched his name into the history books with a performance for the ages.
This time it was Fifita.
In 2014 Hayne carried NSW on his shoulders to a drought-breaking series victory the last time he donned the blue jersey.
But the superstar status he left the game in possession of has eroded over the thousand odd days since he last walked out on to the Origin arena.
It took him 34 minutes, but Hayne showed he still possesses the superstar qualities when he bumped off a few defenders and produced an incredible offload to send Brett Morris into open space.
However his defensive deficiencies were also exposed, making a poor read in defence in the set of six that lead to Queensland’s first try to Corey Oates off a Cooper Cronk kick.
Hayne was picked based on the contribution he has made to the jersey in the past, and a hope that the jersey would contribute to Hayne rediscovering something from the past.
It was the opposite for Mitchell Pearce. There’s not much from the past the Blues wanted him remembering.
Unfortunately, after a sickening collision with Will Chambers early in the second half, there won’t be much from Wednesday night’s game Pearce will remember.
But when he sits down to watch the replay, the heavily scrutinised Blues halfback will reflect on a moment to savour when he combined with future Roosters teammate Tedesco to give the Blues a 12-4 lead on the stroke of half-time before his night came to a premature end.
In the early exchanges of the second half, NSW transformed a dominant start into a unassailable lead when Fifita and Tedesco crossed.
Queensland, unlike in previous campaigns, had no answer.
Hayne redeemed himself for his first-half defensive lapse and in the process took a walk down memory lane, leaping into Blatchey’s Blues when he scored NSW’s fifth try mid-way through the second half.
Debutant Nathan Peats braved a quad injury to prove he has the physical and mental toughness to belong in Origin.
But that was overshadowed by Fifita. The villain turned hero.
NSW 28 (A Fifita J Hayne J Maloney M Pearce J Tedesco tries J Maloney 4 goals) bt QUEENSLAND 4 (C Oates try) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: Matt Cecchin, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 50,300.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.