2015: So Close, Yet So Far

The drought was over, Queensland was fielding the oldest team in Origin history and New South Wales was in the box seat - but with one missed opportunity in the dying stages of Game One, the shield returned north.

After the successes of 2014, coach Laurie Daley was forced to change his winning formula ahead of the 2015 series, with several big names out for various reasons. The sensational NFL defection of 2014 Brad Fittler Medalist Jarryd Hayne left a significant void, while captain Paul Gallen and veteran winger Brett Morris both missed the series opener due to injury.

The shake-up to the Blues' playing roster resulted in Josh Dugan being shifted to fullback and Farah being handed the captaincy. Form earned Mitchell Pearce a recall, partnering fellow No.7 Trent Hodkinson in the halves, while Game One also saw the Origin debuts of two Bulldogs who would soon earn successive Brad Fittler Medals: Josh Jackson and David Klemmer.

David Klemmer (left) and Josh Jackson (right) both debuted for NSW in 2015, while eventual captain Boyd Cordner (middle) returned.
David Klemmer (left) and Josh Jackson (right) both debuted for NSW in 2015, while eventual captain Boyd Cordner (middle) returned. ©NRL Photos

With two tries in the space of seven minutes at ANZ Stadium, the Blues were on their way to a 1-0 series lead, but a misjudgment in a crucial period would cost them by the smallest of margins.

An unconverted Will Chambers try levelled scores at 10-10 in the second half, and seven minutes remained when the home side had a golden opportunity to kick a field goal from close range. Instead, a seven-tackle set was gifted to Queensland, who calmly added the one point via Cooper Cronk. With the chance of a late equaliser going begging, the New South Welshmen found themselves behind.

A record crowd of 91,513 people packed into the MCG for an entertaining display in Origin II, 2015.
A record crowd of 91,513 people packed into the MCG for an entertaining display in Origin II, 2015. ©NRL Photos

Origin I, 2015 was easily the closest result that year, and ultimately proved to be the difference.

Game Two saw State of Origin return to the MCG for the first time since 1997 - and it welcomed the biggest crowd in Origin history. A total of 91,513 people packed into the iconic venue, which continued to be a happy hunting ground for the Blues, who had emerged victorious in two of the three previous games there.

Amid widespread criticism from their Game One loss, the New South Welshmen were branded "duds" by Queensland media, using it as motivation for an expansive and entertaining Game Two win. With returning captain Gallen playing through a painful rib injury, the Blues came back late in the game with tries to Aaron Woods and Josh Dugan, sealing a victory which filled the side with hope of achieving an against-the-odds win in the Suncorp Stadium decider.

Paul Gallen couldn't hide his disappointment after a big Game Three defeat in 2015.
Paul Gallen couldn't hide his disappointment after a big Game Three defeat in 2015. ©NRL Photos

The ensuing trip to Brisbane, however, is a memory which is best forgotten by NSW. With the lead-up dominated by speculation about Farah's recovery from a broken hand, the long-term hooker was eventually replaced by the Sharks' Michael Ennis in the only change to Game Two's winning team. A first-half onslaught from the Maroons, however - which saw the Blues with just 33% possession in the opening stanza - resulted in a 22-2 half-time score, setting up a record-breaking defeat in enemy territory.

With a late Aidan Guerra try surpassing the Blues' 40-point margin achieved in 2000, the Maroons added insult to injury by taking back the Origin shield.