Wednesday 21 March 2018 / 10:02 AM


Too Good Tuesday celebrates Allan Langer’s unforgettable return to the State of Origin arena more than two years after quitting NRL football.

Wayne Bennett orchestrated the most sensational selection bombshell in Origin history ahead of the 2001 decider, bringing 34-year-old Maroons legend Langer – who was playing for English club Warrington – back into the Origin fold at halfback after a three-year absence.

John Doyle and John Buttigieg also returned after missing the second clash. Game two standouts Trent Barrett and Luke Ricketson were ruled of the NSW side with injury, prompting recalls for Brett Kimmorley and Steve Menzies.

Former captain, coach and selector Arthur Beetson described Langer’s selection as “an incredible gamble” – and Queensland was on the back foot in the early stages at Brisbane’s ANZ Stadium. An opening set error gifted NSW a scrum in tremendous field position, before Ryan Girdler got outside opposing centre Paul Bowman to cross out wide after just 38 seconds. Girdler landed the touchline conversion for a 6-0 lead.

But the Maroons hit back in the 10th minute via a stunning 70-metre try; brilliant offloads by Darren Lockyer and Brad Meyers were followed by a Lote Tuqiri break and centre Chris Walker took the inside pass before bamboozling Blues fullback Mark Hughes and racing away to the corner. Bowman atoned for his miss on Girdler by reaching out to score a determined try in the 15th minute.

Girdler cut the deficit to two points with a penalty goal, but Langer combined beautifully with halves partner Daniel Wagon for Dane Carlaw to charge over at the half-hour mark, pushing Queensland’s advantage out to 16-8. Two minutes later, Lockyer – who had been in doubt with a shoulder injury leading into the match – ran the ball on the last tackle and made a searing break into NSW’s half, then kicked ahead. Walker’s electrifying pace took him to the front of the chasing pack to bag his second try.

The Maroons took a stranglehold on the decider in the 38th minute when Langer sent Lockyer over with a deft inside ball, creating a commanding 28-8 halftime scoreline. ‘Alfie’s’ fairytale return continued with an individual try showcasing trademark footwork and evasion 13 minutes into the second stanza.

Bowman stepped past weary Blues defenders to score his second try with 20 minutes remaining, before the hapless visitors gained temporary respite when quick hands provided Girdler with another touchdown. But the final say on the scoreboard went to the dominant Maroons in the 72nd minute – Carl Webb broke the line on halfway and offloaded for Lockyer to streak away for his second four-pointer.

The veteran Langer’s phenomenal comeback – having a hand in five tries and scoring another – was destined to be remembered as one of the great performances in Origin’s rich history; the diminutive champion risked tarnishing his wonderful legacy, but rose above the pressure to inspire a decisive victory.

Meanwhile, stand-in captain Lockyer was named man-of-the-match for another masterful display, elevating him to the very top echelon of the game’s superstars alongside Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler, the forgotten man of the decider who bid farewell to the Origin arena as skipper of a demoralising defeat.

[Facebook – Queensland Maroons]

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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