The inaugural State of Origin match, played on this day 40 years ago, was an ambush that NSW wasn’t ready for.
Having already won the interstate series 2-0 under rules based on where players played club football, they agreed with a proposal from Queensland Rugby League President Senator Ron McAuliffe and NSWRL Chairman Kevin Humphreys to play the first ever match using Origin selection criteria. Several clubs were unhappy with the Origin concept and considered it little more than an exhibition match.
That attitude was reflected in the lead-up to the game. With the match scheduled for Tuesday evening, July 8, 1980, Queensland gave their selected players the weekend off ahead of the game to ensure they were fresh.
In contrast the NSW side had all come through a regular premiership round which had a few effects. It meant the Blues were already battered and bruised and could not assemble and travel to Brisbane until the day before the match. There were also late changes from those weekend games with Ray Price, George Peponis and Les Boyd all having to withdraw through injury.
NSW also had only one training session together followed by a bonding session which upon reflection wasn’t the best preparation for coach Ted Glossop’s team.
It duly showed when Queensland, led by an inspired Arthur Beetson, won a memorable match 20-10, even though both sides scored two tries apiece. Blues winger Greg Brentnall had the honour of scoring the first try in Origin football to help his state trail 9-5 at halftime before Queensland took over the game and got home on the boot of Mal Meninga who landed seven goals from as many attempts.
It was an inauspicious start for NSW but in subsequent years they more than held their own and gave it back to play their part in building the legend that is State of Origin.