“The kick of the career of Carney.”
There were 10 minutes remaining in Game 3 of the 2012 State of Origin series.
The series was locked at 1-all, and the Blues had fought back from an eight-point deficit to trail 20-18 when Josh Morris scored a superb try off the boot of Robbie Farah.
A fully stretched Morris beat Darius Boyd to plant the ball down in the right corner, meaning Todd Carney needed to kick the conversion from the sideline to lock the scores up at 20-all.
Queensland were at the peak of their powers, and the Blues were staring down the barrel of seven straight series defeats.
Carney’s attempt at goal never looked like missing, despite a hostile crowd of 52,437 people putting him off.
“I always catch myself watching highlights,” Carney said to The Locker Room Podcast.
“When I had a kick from the sideline listening to Gus Gould, I still get goose bumps thinking about it.
“Playing in Brisbane, Suncorp was crazy.”
The game finished with a Cooper Cronk field goal sinking the hearts of the Blues, but that doesn’t take away the importance of Carney’s conversion given the game situation at the time.
He only debuted for NSW six weeks earlier and he tells the story of just how much the increase in standard hit him in the first tackle of the game.
“I remember sitting there looking around and blokes are in their boots, I look down and I’ve still got my suit pants on,” Carney said.
“I heard a call ‘15 minutes for kickers’ and I was rushing to get ready, it all came so quick.”
“I remember the first tackle or first hit, I felt like I got knocked out.”
“The first game we got beaten, didn’t play well but it was just like ‘wow you’re here’, it went so fast.”
Carney’s relationship with Mitchell Pearce was an extra incentive of being picked for the Blues outside of the privilege of representing his state.
When Ricky Stuart phoned him to inform him of his selection, the halves combination that took the Sydney Roosters to a Grand Final in 2010 was to be rekindled.
“’Sticky’ rang me and just said that I was in, it was just like wow, I was lucky enough to form a combination with ‘Pearcey’ again in the halves for Origin,” Carney said.
“Going in their knowing ‘Pearcey’ was going to be my half was a big help and ‘Gal’ pushed really hard for me because he’d seen what I was doing at club level.
Given Carney missed the under-20s as a kid and was fast-tracked straight into reserve grade, he was no stranger to having to step up to a better and faster standard of Rugby League.
Despite this, he still had his work cut out for him – like all players do – when he stepped out into the Origin arena.
“The pressure you put on yourself and just how quick [it is], everything is just there in your face,” Carney said.
“You watch it and everyone is a step in front of the ref, it was just intense.
“You think to yourself ‘do you even deserve to be here?’ It went so fast that series and we went so close.”