IT WAS a brave effort on Wednesday night.
It is always when you must deal with the nerves and pressure of being 1-0 down in the series and all your second chances are gone.
State of Origin brings such pressure that it is hard to describe what the players go through, and how much emotion and energy they put into getting themselves prepared. But when you come through that and turn it into a win, the feeling is something you never want to lose.
And it wasn’t just that we won. It was the way the players won it. They kept climbing off the deck and turning up for each other.
As we all know, though, the hard work is still ahead of us.
Last year, we went to Suncorp Stadium with the series tied and failed to handle it. Before you could spell upset, we were down 24-0. We gathered ourselves and slowly worked into the contest and eventually lost 34-24.
But the game was gone before we gave ourselves a chance to compete for it. I told the players after Wednesday’s game that we have been in this position before — the series level. While I congratulated them, I also reminded them that it was now about winning the series. We’re here to win, not compete.
And whatever emotional highs they experienced on Wednesday will be twofold if they can take the series.
We know what it’s going to be like at Suncorp. Queensland will have the crowd behind them. All the noise will be going their way and so, I imagine, will most of the luck. But that’s for us to deal with.
Today, I also want to say thank you.
Earlier this year, I approached Premier Barry O’Farrell about doing some work promoting NSW.
I thought we needed it and wanted to do something to pull this State together, and so I offered to do some promotional stuff in the Hunter with the miners, down the south coast, out in the central west.
Unfortunately I didn’t hear back from him — it obviously fell through the cracks — but when we went into camp I said to myself that I wanted to use the time to promote NSW.
Not as a tourist attraction or anything like that, but promote our identity. It’s important we realise who we are, and understand what our character is. The Blues play a part in that, an increasing part, and it’s important we continue to do so.
I saw Wendell Sailor on television during the week talking about how he loved playing with Greg Bird in the Indigenous team for the All-Stars game.
What stood out for him was how every time he mentioned Queensland, Birdy bristled. He loved it.
Best of all we’ve got that not only in our Origin team, but we’re starting to get it into everybody across the State.
During the first two camps we have done so many functions and we’re always running into guys like Bryan Fletcher, Laurie Daley, David Gillespie, Paul Langmack and Benny Elias.
Those guys want our players to win so much, and my players can feel it.
When we run out, we see Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns on the sideline, and we know they want us to win as much as they ever did when they played. There is a real feeling of family.
Most of all, NSW people are starting to feel good about their team again.
The fans were outstanding on Wednesday night.
I know there’s not a team in Australia that gets a roar like we did at ANZ Stadium.
The Maroons will argue their crowd is as loud, you wouldn’t expect anything less, but we have 30,000 more than them.
And I know some will argue the Melbourne Cricket Ground is bigger, but it’s never filled with a crowd as one-sided as ours.
Whenever the MCG is full the crowd is usually split 50-50, or close to it. Ninety per cent of those fans at ANZ Stadium were for us.
The players really got a boost out of Blatchy’s Blues at the northern end of the ground, with more than 15,000 fans in blue wigs and T-shirts.
When you look at it all together, you can really see something gathering.
From our point of view, it’s terrific.
And, from me, I say thank you.