On the eastern seaboard of Australia, you are Queensland or New South Wales, maroon or blue – there is no middle territory or fence-sitting when it comes to rugby league’s State of Origin series.
In 2018, New South Wales (NSW) turned Australia blue after a long period of Queensland dominance with a 2-1 series win, honouring all expectation that the change in coaching personnel could turn back the maroon tide. Brad Fittler succeeded where Laurie Daley failed, justifying the decision to appoint him back in November 2017.
However, all we really care about on here is how great (or not so great) the shirts are! So we’re going to take a trip through time, and in this edition, we look at the years 2009 to 2013. Although Queensland swept to a straight flush of series wins in that time, did the Maroons have the better kits?
From our point of view, both the 2018 kits are absolute dynamite, but the chevrons on New South Wales’ shirt really do it for us!
With this year marking the first time Melbourne hosted a State Of Origin game, much pride was at stake, with NSW fighting to avoid a fourth series defeat in a row. Under the three-match format, it was unheard of, but records are there to be broken. In an effort to spring a surprise, the NSW lineup contained no fewer than eight players making their debut, with only three survivors from the lineup that appeared in the opening game of the previous year’s series.
After victory in 2018, NSW’s fans were looking forward to a more even record over the next following years, and this belief was backed up by odds comparison site Oddschecker in their review of Game II, which gave NSW victory in the 2018 Origin series. Back in 2009, however, the situation was very different. By this time, Queensland had long forgotten their chequered record of the early to mid-2000s, and much of the experienced, talented side that had swept to victory the previous year had been retained. The backline contained seasoned internationals, and that – combined with previous Origin experience – made Queensland odds-on favourites.
The first game had an air of inevitability about it, though NSW drew first blood via a penalty to go 2-0 up. The fragile lead lasted virtually no time, with tries from three different Queensland players contributing towards a half-time score of 18-6. The final score would end up 28-18, putting additional pressure on an NSW side that had shown exactly how unfamiliar it was with the rigours of an Origin series.
The second game was no better for NSW, and not even a virus in the Queensland camp could stop the Maroon from winning 24-14.
The kits of 2009
Secondary colours featured heavily in the 2009 kits. This was particularly the case for Queensland, whose shirts had thick white lines going down the side of the upper torso, with a similarly bold shirt collar. This was in sharp contrast to the maroon around it, giving it a streamlined effect, when combined with maroon shorts. For NSW, there was a daring experiment, with a light shade of blue being complemented by dark shoulders and a round, white collar stopping short of the front neck.
Sometimes less is more, and while darker colours can be a real risk, Queensland’s whole ensemble just flows that little bit easier.
NSW 0 – Queensland 1
It was a fraught opening to Game I from both sides, but NSW had the territorial advantage and drew first blood. Jarryd Hayne scored the try, with Jamie Lyon extending the lead further from the spot. Erratic possession continued to be the overriding theme, but this time Queensland were the beneficiaries, with Darius Boyd taking possession and scoring out wide. Johnathan Thurston took on the penalty and converted well.
Not even a controversial penalty, which gave back the lead to NSW, could deter the Maroons, and the half-time score was 12-8 to Queensland after another try and conversion manufactured by Thurston’s industry. With only a slender lead at the break, Queensland took the initiative and scored first, with Darren Lockyer opening his account for the 2010 series. The physical degree by which Queensland were dominating increased when Dave Taylor took to the field, and became the heaviest Origin player in history.
Though NSW went within two points in one of the second half’s major flashpoints, the final score of 28-24 ensured that a very familiar story was unfolding. The Queensland squad was blighted by a number of injury problems in the build-up to Game II, but infighting within the NSW camp meant that Queensland’s psychological advantage was as present as ever. They won again, by a resounding 34-6 scoreline to make it five series in a row.
The kits of 2010
For NSW, there was little discernible change from the previous year, with the reasonably smart combination of light and dark blue staying put. Meanwhile, Canterbury’s Queensland kit failed to heed the old saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Asymmetrical designs can be a good thing when used correctly, but with white pinstripes around the sleeve and outer torso, having a wonky ‘v’ shape around the upper chest looks like an error at the factory.
NSW 1 – Queensland 1
Unlike the first game of the 2009 and 2010 series, the 2011 opener saw Queensland get off to a strong start, once more showing NSW that drastic changes can be heaven or hell – nowhere in between.
Though Queensland took the lead after just five minutes game I, again through Johnathan Thurston, NSW became more solidified in defence and went into the break of Game I only 6-0 down. That deficit became 10-0, but NSW dominated the second half thereafter, with only a further try and penalty saving Queensland’s blushes and giving the men in Maroon a 16-12 victory.
Game II saw a number of changes in the NSW lineup, but this time, it worked. Again Thurston was a thorn in NSW’s side, opening the scoring with a penalty. 2-0 soon became 8-0 with a try and a conversion, but as in Game I, the tide soon turned. NSW scored a try and conversion of their own to quarter the deficit ahead of the break.
Queensland failed to score in the second half of Game II, and the series-levelling 18-8 win for NSW but the Blues on the edge of a resounding – if improbable – triumph. Game III brought the Blues’ hopes down to earth with a crash, with Queensland dominating the first half to lead 24-10 at the break. A spirited NSW comeback saw Queensland win only by a 34-24 scoreline – but it was another maroon year in eastern Australia.
The kits of 2011
Queensland stuck with the 2010 design, and this time it was NSW’s turn to change design. Here, the white collar is eliminated, along with the dark ‘shoulder pads’. The predominantly light blue shirt is offset by thick, dark vertical swatches along both sides of the outer torso. This produces something of a slimming effect, which may fool a less knowing opponent than Queensland’s finest into believing that they are at a physical advantage. The alignment with the light blue swatches on the dark shorts is also a feature we like.
NSW 2 – Queensland 1
This time, NSW featured four debutants, and only nine survivors (from a possible seventeen) from the final game of the 2011 series. Significantly, however, they all had experience of international rugby or a club-level grand final. Queensland had just one debutant, Matt Gillett, with the Brisbane lock set to be an impact player from the bench. Unlike the previous year, the first game saw a relatively even opening, with NSW being marginally the more purposeful side. A try from Akuila Uate (followed by a failed conversion from Toddy Carney) gave NSW a 4-0 lead.
It was a first half that is remembered more for the brawl that saw Michael Jennings sin-binned than the on-field action, but (twice) a try from Darius Boyd, followed by a Johnathan Thurston conversion turned the scoreline around, 12-4 in favour of the Maroons by half-time. Though NSW managed to pull the score back to 12-10, Queensland regained composure and won Game I by an 18-10 scoreline.
Game II yielded a re-run of the first game’s first half, with a 4-0 lead for NSW becoming a 6-4 deficit before the break. NSW equalised two minutes after it, and tries from NSW’s Brett Stewart and Josh Morris, with one conversion, gave NSW a 16-6 lead. Though Queensland piled on the pressure later on, NSW held firm to level the series with a 16-12 win.
As was almost traditional back then, Queensland won Game III with relative ease, although it was not the formality it had been in previous years, the half-time score of 16-8 to Queensland showed exactly why the Maroons remained miles ahead of an ever-changing NSW lineup. Thurston was his usual unplayable self, with Queensland eventually winning by a single point, 21-20.
The kits of 2012
While NSW’s kit showed no major changes, Queensland made a significant improvement. The white pinstripes around the outer reaches of the maroon shirt became gold for a much subtler effect from a design point of view. Gone also was the skewed ‘V’-shape present for the past two years, to be replaced by a hollow gold pinstripe ‘bib’, the base of which covers the midriff. Such an effect is an acquired taste, but if nothing else, it accentuates the upper body and enhances the apparent strength of a player in that area.
NSW 2 – Queensland 2
With Queensland’s Mal Meninga still the coaching king of Origin, Laurie Daley was seen as the perfect foil, and the man to turn around the fortunes of NSW. Four men made their debuts in the famous blue shirt. Jarryd Hayne was also moved from the wing to become a makeshift fullback, and it was one of several changes that seemed to make a difference in the early stages of Game I. After 40 minutes of play, NSW were 14-0 up and in dreamland. The second half is mostly remembered for being ill-tempered, and although Queensland pulled back six points, a blue win was never in doubt.
Meninga rang the changes for Game II, and it worked wonders for Queensland. Nate Myles proved more effective in the prop forward role, with Chris McQueen filling Myles’ old position after promotion from the bench. A more dynamic setup saw much more fluid play from Queensland, with Samuel Thaiday opening the scoring with a try after two minutes. Darius Boyd got two tries, and Johnathan Thurston scored five out of six conversions in a 26-6 victory.
On the evidence of Game I, this could have been NSW’s year. It would not be until 2014 that the Blues finally tasted such success, but in going down 12-10 with a battling performance at the ANZ Stadium, the Blues finally appeared to have discovered the foundation on which to build a series-winning mentality.
The kits of 2013
Queensland’s design changed slightly, while NSW’s design changed slightly, with the dark area around the pectorals become thin giving the light blue on the front of the main shirt an ‘inverted pear’ shape against the dark secondary colour. Some may say that this is in response to the hollow bib of Queensland, retained from the previous year. Dark swatches either side of the collar add character to the shirt, but the Queensland kit remains the more simplistic, and alongside an all-maroon kit, the imposing nature of Queensland’s dominant run in that era is well-reflected.
Final Score: NSW 2 – Queensland 3
They blue it!
In an anticlimax, we consider Queensland to have had slightly better designs than NSW, during the latter period of their eight-series winning run. Regardless, NSW’s kit from 2018 is a real winner for us, with its double black chevron adding real character to a shirt that has been associated with being second best for many years. It is certainly worthy of the Origin shield, and with Brad Fittler in charge of affairs, this year’s edition of Origin proved that there is always hope, even after the most desolate run.