When perhaps Queensland’s most memorable last-minute victory of all time unfolded before him, Ian Roberts looked on in disbelief - and since that fateful day in 1994, the former VB Blues hard man has had one clear message.
“You’ve got to just keep going for it,” Roberts tells NSWRL.com.au. “In a game against Queensland, you’ve got to keep going for the win, you can’t try and defend your lead.”
The moment, of course, was the final play of the 1994 series opener, when the Maroons’ Mark Coyne finished an incredible team play which saw the ball pass through 11 sets of hands. “That’s not a try, that’s a miracle!” were the words since etched in Origin folklore - but Roberts has different memories.
“Are you serious? It was a horror story!” The former front-rower jokes. “Queensland were never going to win that game until there was five minutes left on the clock. They stepped up a gear.
“We were just going to wind the clock down and that’s not the way Queensland saw it. It’s such a familiar story.”
There are many similarities between the 1994 and 2017 series; Queensland’s famous win at the death was somewhat replicated in the final stages of Game Two at ANZ Stadium a fortnight ago. In 1994, the Blues were then tasked with heading to Brisbane for an all-important decider in Game Three - and, like the side he was involved in, Roberts believes the current crop can secure the victory.
“Because Thurston’s out, I think that does open up a few more options for NSW; it gives them a little bit more time in defence,” Roberts says. “I think that could be the obstacle that Queensland can’t recover from.
“In saying that, that’s been said a thousand times before as well.”
When the NSW VB Blues head into Origin III, 2017 - already dubbed one of the most-anticipated deciders the game has ever seen - they will do so with decades of proof that the Maroons are never down for the count. Their most recent battle with Queensland, however, might be the biggest lesson yet.
“I’m sure Laurie (Daley) appreciates that it ‘aint over until the bell goes,” Roberts adds. “I think in the second game, NSW would’ve learned incredibly from that, it seemed to me that they were trying to defend their lead.
“There are 34 incredible players involved in that game and any one of them can win it.”