Iconic Origin moment ‘bit us on the arse’
Whatever the end result of the 2020 State of Origin series ends up being, it won't be forgotten quickly.
With the showpiece element of the rugby league season taking place at the end of the season for the first time, the Origin series will be an unforgettable spectacle either way as the state based rivalry takes on a much different shape - for better or worse.
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But NRL, NSW and Australian legends turned Fox League funny men Bryan Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh believe the series will be somewhat one sided.
Fletcher, who played 14 games for NSW and 13 for Australia, said he thinks it will be "closer than most people think" but that it will be 2-1 to NSW with Queensland winning a dead rubber in front of their home crowd in game three, while Hindmarsh tipped the Blues to thrash the Maroons 3-0.
Hindmarsh, who played 17 games for NSW and 20 for Australia, said a game two win at ANZ Stadium will "break the backs" of the Queenslanders and allow NSW to completing a whitewash at Suncorp Stadium.
But Fletcher said Wayne Bennett "only takes a job when he knows he can win" and with Mal Meninga alongside him, it's a powerful Maroons brains trust.
'BRING BACK' TRY CELEBRATIONS
Having been involved in one of the great moments of Origin football, Fletcher spoke about the infamous "grenade" celebration from the 2000 series - now 20 years on.
NSW won the series 3-0 with a game three 56-16 win punctuated by Fletcher's try when he scored with 15 minutes left, before launching the ball in the air like a grenade with his teammates pretending to be blown away when the ball landed.
While Queensland great Paul Vautin said in commentary at the time that it was "one of the best", the Maroons have reportedly used the celebration as motivation in the decades since.
Fletcher said the NSW players had seen Any Given Sunday and former NSW centre Ryan Girdler "was the instigator".
"When it happened, I was lucky enough to score the try, Girds said 'lets do the hand grenade' and bang," he said.
"I'd love to see it back," Fletcher added. "I don't think it will come back, the players are very measured and you don't want to give the opposition anything too irresponsible.
"We'd just beaten Queensland by 50, so we weren't taking the mickey out of them, we were just enjoying ourselves. We did then lose a couple afterwards …
"We're in the entertainment business, we're entertaining the kids. I remember after the hand grenade, everyone was doing the hand grenade. I think they should bring it back. I don't think they will."
Earlier in 2020, Sportsbet offered $5000 for every choreographed try celebration in the NRL with the proceeds given to Men of League. $80,000 was raised from round eight to round 11.
Hindmarsh said the concept was good when it supported an issue.
"But when it's not, like I thought Bryan was a bit out of hand doing that, I thought it was very disrespectful and it bit us on the arse in the end," Hindmarsh joked.
After the 3-0 win, NSW lost the 2001 series, before a draw in 2002 allowed Queensland to retain the trophy.
NSW then won the next three, before Queensland's unparalleled run of dominance between 2006 and 2017 saw it claim 11 of the next 12.
END OF YEAR ORIGIN HERE TO STAY?
Fletcher said it's a good time of year for the Origin series after such a crazy season.
"I reckon it's going to be great because there's no other sport on, obviously no AFL, cricket hasn't started, people have just finished the Melbourne Cup so all eyes should be on Wednesday night," he said. "We might get record ratings or people might be sick of footy."
But in the debate over where the game should sit on the calendar, Hindmarsh said he preferred it to be mid-year, although argued it was similar to going on Kangaroos tours at the end of the year.
"I'm a big fan of the mid-year," he said. "Obviously we have the Origin hangover where we go back to round to round footy where the hype of Origin brings the level of week-to-week footy down and people aren't as excited about those first few weeks after Origin. But end of year, it's been a long year of rugby league, looking forward to cricket season so I'm a bit unsure about end of the year at this point until we play the three games."
Fletcher said he was a traditionalist but believes it would likely come down to how it rates as to whether it returns to its traditional slot for good.
Fletch and Hindy have partnered with Bundaberg Rum and Jimmy Brings, with four lucky fans who buy a Bundy Halftime Hero Bundle from Jimmy Brings during State of Origin game one going into the draw to get their orders delivered by the legends and be able to share a kick around.
All online and app purchasers will also go into the draw to win State of Origin game two or three tickets and merchandise.
It's a great prize to get to hang out with two of the funniest guys in footy - even if they didn't intend to be still getting laughs six years after first forming as a comedic duo at Fox Sports.
"I was hoping to be a bit like Mick Ennis - an absolute punish that doesn't know when to shut up," Hindmarsh laughed.
"But I don't think it's something either of us expected. It's been a good six years so far so another six would be great."
Originally published as Iconic Origin moment 'bit us on the arse'