Building up to the State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium, we’re counting down the 10 greatest individual displays in Origin history.
No.1 spot goes to the great Andrew Johns for his unforgettable series-saving return for NSW in game two, 2005.
A knee injury ended ‘Joey’s’ 2004 season after just three games, while speculation the NRL’s No.1 player may take up a lucrative offer from the Australian Rugby Union dominated the headlines, before he opted to re-sign with Newcastle midway through the year. Johns’ injury curse continued with a broken jaw just five matches into his comeback at the start of 2005 – but it proved to be the catalyst for his finest hour at Origin level.
He was selected to be the Blues’ saviour following their golden point loss in the series opener, replacing Brett Kimmorley at halfback for game two despite having played just one game in the previous two months (and just nine games since August 2003).
Amid much hype and extraordinary pressure, Johns produced one of State of Origin’s most dominant individual performances. His driving kick downfield in the 15th minute thudded into the upright padding, allowing Anthony Minichiello to score a fortuitous try, and kicked a 40-20 just after halftime before laying on the fullback’s second touchdown.
Johns started movements that created tries for Steve Menzies and Matt Cooper, then sealed the result and his resounding man-of-the-match claims by taking the ball to the line and threading an exquisite pass in between defenders for NSW captain and Knights teammate Danny Buderus to score. His display in the 32-22 win was later honoured with the Peter Frilingos Memorial Award for Headline Moment of the Year.
The Knights linchpin was no less influential in the comprehensive 22-point decider win, throwing brilliant passes to set up five tries and putting in a cross-field kick for another to complete one of the great representative comebacks.