Thursday 24 August 2017 / 07:26 AM

A HISTORY OF MAROONS AXINGS

Queensland has reacted to its record series-opening loss in Brisbane by dumping six players – Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles, Corey Oates, Justin O’Neill, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman – for the must-win Game 2 against NSW next week.

This seems to go against the Maroons’ famed loyalty – but that loyalty always came with a caveat.

Their selectors have traditionally been prepared to go with the players that have done the job for them in the past even if said players’ club form has been subpar, but they’ve rarely tolerated failure.

We’ve charted the history of Queensland swinging the selection axe following Game 1 defeats:

Colin Scott (1986)

Queensland’s fullback in all but one of the first 15 Origin matches, Scott was replaced by boom Canberra custodian Gary Belcher after NSW won the opening clash of the 1986 series 22-16 at Lang Park. Scott was an unused replacement in Game 1 of the ’87 campaign before playing on the wing in the remaining two games of the Maroons’ series win. He went on to become the Brisbane Broncos’ foundation No.1.

Paul Vautin and Wally Fullerton Smith (1990)

Following series cleansweeps in 1988-89, Queensland lost the 1990 series opener 8-0 at the SFS. Back-rowers Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin, who had captained the Maroons in Game 1 with Wally Lewis sidelined, and Wally Fullerton Smith were both unceremoniously dumped from the Arthur Beetson-coached side. With 34 Origin appearances between them, neither stalwart represented again.

Kevin Walters (1992)

Walters stepped into the No.6 hot-seat after Wally Lewis retired from rep football, but he was made a scapegoat following the Maroons’ 14-6 loss in Game 1 of the 1992 series. Peter Jackson moved to five-eighth and Mark Coyne came in at centre, with Walters demoted to the bench. The current Queensland coach was a regular fall guy for his state, also benched in the 1993 and ’96 campaigns before starring in the Maroons’ success during a career-defining ’98 season.

Gary Belcher (1993)
A bona fide Queensland great and an automatic pick for five seasons, Belcher returned to the Origin side after injury ruled him out of the 1991-92 series. But the curtain came down on ‘Badge’s’ representative career after the Maroons succumbed 14-10 in Game 1 of the ’93 campaign. The enigmatic Dale Shearer took over for the remaining two clashes and got the Test No.1 jumper for the subsequent series against New Zealand.

Trevor Gillmeister (1996)

Gillmeister was arguably the hero of Queensland’s mystifying 3-0 cleansweep in 1995, captaining a ragtag bunch of unknowns and fringe first-graders to the most incredible triumph in Origin history as the Super League war decimated the Maroons’ ranks. Despite being well past his best, the 32-year-old was retained as captain for the 1996 series opener, but ‘The Axe’ felt the axe after an insipid 14-6 loss in Brisbane. Andrew Gee won a recall to a reshuffled Queensland pack and Allan Langer took the captaincy reins.

Kevin Campion, John Buttigieg, John Doyle, Carl Webb, Clinton Schifcofske (2002)

Campion, Buttigieg, Doyle and Webb were all rookie heroes of the new-look Maroons’ stunning 2-1 series victory under Wayne Bennett in 2001, but the quartet was shown the door in the wake of their 32-4 demolition at the hands of the Blues in the ’02 series opener. Debutant Clinton Schifcofske was also dropped. In came PJ Marsh, Steve Price, Chris Beattie, Travis Norton and Justin Hodges, with Queensland going on to draw the series and retain the Origin shield.

Matt Scott and David Stagg (2006)

The likes of Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva were famously told they were on their last chance after Queensland lost the 2006 series opener to stare a fourth straight series defeat in the face. The Maroons rallied to win the series and start a record-shattering dynasty, but second-row pairing Scott and Stagg weren’t around to celebrate that ’06 triumph, axed after underwhelming debuts in a 17-16 Game 1 loss. Scott eventually returned to the fold in 2009 and has played 22 Origins, but Stagg never received another chance to atone.

Carl Webb (2008)

An intermittent member of the Queensland team during the 2000s, Webb was an automatic pick for the first Origin encounter of 2008 after starring in the previous two series victories and making his Test debut for Australia only weeks out from Game 1. But NSW’s convincing 18-10 win brought the enforcer’s 12-game tenure to an end, with Webb making way for the returning Steve Price as Queensland fought back to win the series.

Ashley Harrison and David Shillington (2013)

The Blues carved out a 14-6 win in Game 1 of the 2013 series, and engine-room regulars Harrison (15 Origins) and Shillington (eight Origins) paid the price for one of the Maroons’ most listless performances of the past decade. Josh Papalii and Daly Cherry-Evans received debut call-ups, with Chris McQueen and Corey Parker moving into the starting side for the dumped duo, who never played Origin footy again.

[YouTube – Monsterlol99]

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About the author

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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