Raudonikis: 'Finish the job'
Long after the final siren, Tommy Raudonikis remembers the harrowing feeling like it was yesterday.
It's 1997, Game Three – a dead-rubber – where the Raudonikis-coached NSW side had earned the series bragging rights after wins in Origins I and II respectively.
Still, the match was a golden opportunity for the side to secure a rare clean sweep.
But a missed chance at that.
Invited into the Blues' inner-sanctum on Monday night, Raudonikis spoke at length of the need for NSW to finish the 2018 series on a high, to fully enjoy the success of the campaign.
'Devastated' after the Game Three loss that year, the tough-as-nails Raudonikis recalls the empty feeling of lifting the prized Origin shield on the back of a loss. Between some laughs and jeers, the message gets through to Fittler's men.
Because as light-hearted as Raudonikis is, he's an inspiration, tenfold. A man who's three times overcome a battle with cancer commands the respect of the room.
Which he receives, and then some.
"We had a phone call when we were in Melbourne, it was the day of the game... the day he got the all clear from the doctor, he had a tumour cut out of his neck," Fittler says of Raudonikis.
"It was wonderful to have him here, he couldn't help himself, he got a bit excited. He's a real character, he's really passionate about State of Origin."
The current crop receives their jerseys and a handshake, and a parting message from Tommy – most, if not all, which aren't fit for publication.
The passion hasn't wavered – nor has the desire of Fittler's Blues to leave Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night, 3-0.