In anticipation of several deserving, in-form players missing out on the New South Wales side for the 2017 series opener – and maybe even a couple on the Queensland side of the divide – Monday Memories pays tribute to the unluckiest, most baffling omission in Origin history.
Brilliant winger Nathan Blacklock was one of the greatest try-scorers and entertainers of the modern era but was continually overlooked for representative sides and ranks as one of the most controversial non-selections in NSW’s Origin history.
The Indigenous flyer debuted for Sydney City in 1995 but came to prominence in 1998 after scoring 20 tries for St. George. Blacklock featured in the St. George Illawarra side that lost the 1999 Grand Final (scoring a memorable solo try), while he was named Dally M Winger of the Year and topped the NRL’s tryscoring chart in three successive seasons (1999-2001).
After representing Country Origin and scoring 27 tries in 2001 (the equal-highest season total since 1954), Blacklock was selected in the Kangaroo Tour squad, scoring two tries and two goals on debut against Papua New Guinea and playing his only other Test in the Ashes decider at Wigan after injured ruled out Lote Tuqiri.
But he could not force his way into the NSW Origin line-up – the likes of Darren Albert, Matt Geyer, Adam MacDougall, Jamie Ainscough, Timana Tahu and Jason Moodie were preferred on the flanks from 1999-2002.
Blacklock abruptly departed for a brief rugby union stint with the NSW Waratahs in 2002, but returned to the Dragons the following season and finished his career at the end of 2004 with the extraordinary record of 121 tries in 142 first grade games.