Sunday 18 February 2018 / 12:36 PM

Top 5 Origin dead-rubbers

New South Wales may have already wrapped up its first series since 2005 with gripping victories in the opening two State of Origin encounters, but there is still plenty to play for in Wednesday’s game three ‘dead-rubber’ at Suncorp Stadium. Origin history has witnessed many wonderful encounters despite the series result already being decided – here is Commentary Box Sports’ top five most thrilling, explosive and controversial dead-rubbers:

5. 1985: Queensland 20 d. New South Wales 6 at Lang Park


Following NSW’s maiden series success with wins in the opening two games, Blues and Australian Test coach Terry Fearnley ensured a fiery third clash when he sensationally dropped four Queensland players from Australia’s line-up for the third Test against New Zealand (the Test series was played in between the second and third Origin games). Fearnley had also openly criticised his Test skipper, Maroons icon Wally Lewis, after the Test series, and interstate relations hit an all-time low. Queensland – and its dumped Test stars – exacted some revenge in the dead-rubber, with 19-year-old winger Dale Shearer scoring two tries in a 20-6 win. A pumped-up Greg Dowling, one of the Maroons players axed from the Australian side, gave Fearnley a massive sideline spray before pointing to the scoreboard. Fearnley never coached at representative level again, despite his history-making turn in charge of the Blues.

4. 2010: Queensland 23 d. New South Wales 18 at ANZ Stadium


NSW’s 2010 Origin campaign had been a disaster, with the Andrew Johns-Timana Tahu racial slur furore culminating in an embarrassing, series-sealing 34-6 loss in game two in Brisbane. But a Blues side featuring four debutants looked set for a morale-boosting win in Origin III back in Sydney, overturning a seven-point halftime deficit to go ahead 18-13 when Greg Bird dived on a Michael Ennis grubber with 11 minutes on the clock. Queensland’s overwhelming class told, however, after Ennis inexplicably gave away a penalty while in possession, unloading a barrage of punches on Nate Myles. A textbook set play involving Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston saw Billy Slater cross, before Thurston slotted the go-ahead conversion. A Willie Tonga try in the final minute was purely academic, but rubbed salt into the Blues’ deep wounds as the Maroons chalked up the only 3-0 cleansweep of their eight-year reign.

3. 1993: Queensland 24 d. New South Wales 12 at Lang Park


A pair of four-point wins in the opening two games saw NSW retain the Origin shield, but that did little to douse the traditional interstate fire in game three. A scrum erupted during the first half, after which rival props Paul Harragon and Martin Bella engaged in one of the most memorable one-on-one stoushes in Origin history. The enforcers were despatched to the sin-bin, along with bitter No.9 rivals Ben Elias and Steve Walters, who used the disruption to lock horns in their own frenzied scrap. The Blues led 12-8 at halftime, but tries to Walters, Willie Carne and retiring legend Bob Lindner provided Queensland with a memorable 24-12 victory. It represented a fitting finish for the big-hearted Lindner, whose 25 Origin appearances was a record for an Origin forward.


2. 1995: Queensland 24 d. New South Wales 16 at Suncorp Stadium


Queensland had already secured the most extraordinary series triumph in Origin history, winning the first two games with a team of no-names after the outbreak of the Super League War saw the Maroons’ selection pool decimated. But the Paul Vautin-coached Maroons powered to a phenomenal 3-0 whitewash in a thrilling game three encounter. Captain Trevor Gillmeister, in hospital on a drip suffering from a leg infection, famously checked himself out to line up in the dead-rubber, inspiring his unheralded troops to a 24-16 victory. The Blues led 16-12 shortly after halftime, but a dazzling 50-metre try to Brett Dallas put the ragtag Maroons back in front, before 18-year-old interchange Ben Ikin sealed the result with a 77th-minute try after Matt Seers fumbled a bomb near the NSW line. No Origin result before or since has defied belief to the extent of the ’95 series. Maroons firebrand Tony Hearn was suspended for eight weeks following a blatant head-butt on opposing prop Mark Carroll.



1. 2009: New South Wales 28 d. Queensland 16 at Suncorp Stadium


The third game of the 2009 series virtually saw the term ‘dead-rubber’ wiped out of the Origin lexicon forever, such was the ferocity and spitefulness of the Suncorp Stadium encounter. Queensland had wrapped up the series with two 10-point wins, and opened the scoring via a Cameron Smith try in the early stages as the Maroons chased their first whitewash in 14 years. But NSW rallied to lead 14-6 at the break following an eight-point try, awarded when Johnathan Thurston accidently kicked Blues winger David Williams in the face as he scored. Greg Inglis and Billy Slater combined for one of the great Origin tries during the second stanza, but the Blues surged to an unassailable 12-point lead when Ben Creagh became the first forward to score two tries in an Origin match in 21 years. But the fireworks of a niggly encounter really kicked off in the dying minutes when rival props Steve Price and Brett White went toe-to-toe. The pair traded wild punches for several seconds, before Price, playing in the last of his 28 Origins, was knocked out by a White punch, and a heated exchange between several members of both sides ensued. Jarryd Hayne had crossed in the corner for NSW, but the try was disallowed as the penalty went to Queensland, while Blues backrower Trent Waterhouse was unluckily sent off for being third man in. Price left the field on a medicab in a neck brace. The game resumed after a five-minute stoppage. Smith hoisted a bomb from the resultant tap penalty and the fired-up Maroons barrelled Kurt Gidley after he marked the ball, sparking another melee. Creagh and Sam Thaiday were despatched to the sin-bin, and another push-and-shove erupted on the fulltime siren, concluding the most sensational finish to a match in Origin history.



  • Of the 32 series staged prior to 2014, 15 have featured a dead-rubber Origin III.
  • From 1984-90, six of the seven series featured a dead-rubber Origin III.
  • Dead-rubbers have been won by the team that lost the series eight times, while the series victors have completed a 3-0 whitewash on seven occasions.
  • Of the 15 dead-rubbers, eight have been the highest-scoring match of the series and six have been the second highest-scoring match of the series.
  • NSW racked up the biggest win in Origin history, 56-16, in the 2000 dead-rubber at ANZ Stadium; Queensland equalled its biggest-ever Origin win in the 2003 dead-rubber, prevailing 36-6 at Suncorp Stadium.


Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!

facebook twitter alt instagram tumblr

Add Comment

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.

More nrl News

Special Features