1991 State of Origin series

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1991 State of Origin series
Won by Queensland colours.svg Queensland (7th title)
Series margin 2 - 1
Points scored 62
Attendance 107,146 (ave. 35,715 per match)
Top points scorer(s) Queensland colours.svg Mal Meninga (12)
Top try scorer(s) Chris Johns & Dale Shearer (2)

The 1991 State of Origin series saw the tenth time the annual three-match State of Origin series between the New South Wales and Queensland representative rugby league teams was played entirely under 'state of origin' selection rules. It was notable as Wally Lewis' farewell from Origin football and featured his half-time stoush with Mark Geyer in Game II which match culminated in Michael O'Connor's sensational match-winning sideline conversion in teeming rain.

For the first time since State of Origin became a three-game series in 1982, Queensland named the same starting XIII for each game of the series. The Maroons only made two changes during the series, with Origin veterans Dale Shearer coming onto the bench for Game 2 in Sydney to replace Steve Renouf, and Bob Lindner, the player of the 1990 Kangaroo tour, named on the bench for Game 3 in Brisbane (replacing Gavin Allen) after recovering from a broken leg. This saw Queensland only use 19 players for the series. In contrast, NSW only had seven players there for the entire series (five of whom started each game) and used a total of 24 players.

Game I[edit]

Controversy preceded the start of the series when Maroon's coach and Queensland Origin figurehead Arthur Beetson was deposed in favour of Manly-Warringah coach and former New Zealand test coach Graham Lowe, the first and (as of 2017) only non-Queenslander to have coached the Maroons. Two time Canberra Raiders premiership winning coach Tim Sheens got the job as New South Wales coach, replacing Supercoach Jack Gibson who had retired from coaching. 1990 Kangaroo tour vice-captain Ben Elias was retained as captain of the Blues, while Wally Lewis retained the captaincy of Queensland despite Mal Meninga being the incumbent Australian test captain.

Queensland lost their Australian fullback Gary Belcher to a knee injury only two days before the game and he was replaced by giant (197 cm) 20-year-old Brisbane Broncos fullback Paul Hauff. The Maroons also lost test hooker Kerrod Walters who had been suspended for 2 games. He was replaced by his older brother, Canberra Raiders premiership hooker Steve Walters. NSW coach Tim Sheens gave the Blues goal kicking duties to veteran Michael O'Connor over regular Penrith club kicker Greg Alexander despite O'Connor not having been Manly's first choice kicker since early in 1990 and having only kicked 2 goals to that point of the 1991 season.

20:00 8 May
Queensland colours.svg Queensland 6–4 New South Wales colours.svg New South Wales
(6 - 1 t, 1 g) Mal Meninga (Report) Laurie Daley (4 - 1 t)
Lang Park
Attendance: 32,400[1]
Referee/s: Bill Harrigan[2]
Man of the Match: Wally Lewis[3]

It took sixty-four minutes for the first try to be scored in a nailbiting series opener at Lang Park. The try featured the two veterans of the Queensland side - Wally Lewis ran wide and powered halfway through an opening and then found Mal Meninga in support who bulldozed through Greg Alexander and Andrew Ettingshausen's attempted tackle to score. Laurie Daley scored his team's only try late in the second half after grubber-kicking behind Michael Hancock into the corner and winning the race to the ball. Meninga landed only one of his four shots at goal but it proved decisive as both Michael O'Connor and Alexander missed their only attempts. O'Connor's conversion attempt of Daley's try went wide leaving Qld with a 6-4 lead. Alexander had a chance to level the scores after NSW received a penalty when Meninga's restart from the Daley try was kicked over the dead ball line on the full, but his kick from half way was wide and short and fell safely into the arms of Wally Lewis who took the tackle to end the game.

After only being a late callup into the Queensland team, replacement fullback Paul Hauff (who at 6'6" (197 cm) was the tallest recorded fullback in premiership history) put in a near man of the match performance in his Origin and representative debut, with most judges believing he would have won the award had he not been forced off midway through the second half with a dislocated shoulder. Early in the first half he twice saved certain NSW tries when he first tackled a flying Greg Alexander into touch, and only minutes later he managed to scramble back and prevent Ettingshausen from picking up the ball and scoring next to the posts after ET put in a grubber kick behind Hauff.

Game II[edit]

20:00 29 May
New South Wales colours.svg New South Wales 14–12 Queensland colours.svg Queensland
(4 - 1 t) Chris Johns
(4 - 1 t) Mark McGaw
(6 - 3 g) Michael O'Connor
(Report) Mal Meninga (4 - 2 g)
Willie Carne (4 - 1 t)
Dale Shearer (4 - 1 t)
Sydney Football Stadium
Attendance: 41,520[4]
Referee/s: David Manson[5]
Man of the Match: Steve Walters[6]
The iconic image of Wally Lewis confronting Mark Geyer with referee David Manson in the background and Ben Elias in the foreground.[7]

Game II of 1991 is remembered for a number of dramatic incidents. Played in drenching rain, the game exploded into violence before half-time when volatile New South Wales forward Mark Geyer chopped down on Queensland hooker Steve Walters in a tackle. Prop Andrew Gee ran in to assist his teammate, sparking a brawl which involved most players from both teams. When the dust settled, referee David Manson issued a handful of cautions, but as players left the field for half-time, Queensland captain Wally Lewis continued to goad Geyer,[8] clearly expecting the New South Wales forward to be antagonised into a violent response right in front of Manson that would have him sent off. This became a lasting image in Australian sporting folklore.[9][10]

Soon after the break Geyer missed with a forearm directed towards Queensland fullback Paul Hauff, sparking another brawl when Peter Jackson and Gary Coyne ran in to target Geyer, while Wally Lewis was trying to calm his players by yelling that Geyer would be gone. However referee David Manson, himself a Queenslander, only cautioned the Blues second-rower. Geyer was later suspended for five matches for his questionable elbow to Hauff. The Maroons looked to have the series wrapped up when an Allan Langer break and Lewis pass led to a try to Dale Shearer 12 minutes from full-time. But with six minutes remaining, a cut-out pass by Blues halfback Ricky Stuart led to a try to centre Mark McGaw out wide, levelling the scores at 12-all. As the rain continued to belt down, O'Connor, who wasn't in great form with the boot but was surprisingly given the kicking duties despite Illawarra Steelers goal kicking winger Rod Wishart in the team, lined up the conversion attempt and sensationally landed the goal to give the Blues a 14-12 victory just before full-time.[11]

Game III[edit]

20:00 12 June
Queensland colours.svg Queensland 14–12 New South Wales colours.svg New South Wales
(4 - 1 t) Paul Hauff
(4 - 1 t) Michael Hancock
(4 - 1 t) Dale Shearer
(2 - 1 g) Mal Meninga
(Report) Chris Johns (4 - 1 t)
Michael O'Connor (4 - 1 t)
Des Hasler (4 - 1 t)
Lang Park
Attendance: 33,226[12]
Referee/s: Bill Harrigan[13]
Man of the Match: Martin Bella[14]

The Game III decider back in Brisbane was fast-paced and desperately fought with never more than four points separating the sides. Queensland led 8-4 at half-time but two New South Wales tries, both unconverted by O'Connor who also missed a long-range penalty goal from near half-way, took the Blues to a 12-8 lead. Strangely coach Sheens had stuck with Game 2 hero O'Connor as goal kicker despite him not being the regular kicker for Manly and the presence in the side of regular club kickers Greg Alexander (Penrith) and Rod Wishart (Illawarra). Late in the second-half a superb dash by Maroons' hooker Steve Walters paved the way for a try to replacement back Dale Shearer, levelling the match. Repeating O'Connor's deed in Sydney, Maroon centre Mal Meninga landed the sideline conversion (the only goal kicked in the game),[15] lifting Queensland to a 14-12 victory.

Ten minutes before the end of the game the Lang Park ground announcer advised the 33,226 strong crowd that Wally Lewis was playing his last game for Queensland. Lewis had decided to retire from Origin football after receiving news on the day of the game that his daughter Jaime-Lee was deaf, with only his family and the Qld team knowing about his decision. The Maroons supporters roared as they never had before to lift their weary gladiators to the line and Lewis to his ultimate victory and slow farewell lap around his home ground, hand-in-hand with his two young sons Mitchell and Lincoln. Queensland manager Dick "Tosser" Turner later admitted that Lewis had given an instruction and plotted the perfect timing for the announcement to be made.


New South Wales[edit]

Position Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Fullback Panthers colours.svg Greg Alexander Cronulla colours.svg Andrew Ettingshausen Panthers colours.svg Greg Alexander
Wing Brisbane colours.svg Chris Johns
Centre Cronulla colours.svg Andrew Ettingshausen Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Michael O'Connor
Centre Canberra colours.svg Laurie Daley Cronulla colours.svg Mark McGaw
Wing Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Michael O'Connor Illawarra colours.svg Rod Wishart
Five-Eighth Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Cliff Lyons Panthers colours.svg Brad Fittler
Halfback Canberra colours.svg Ricky Stuart
Prop Balmain colours.svg Steve Roach
Hooker Balmain colours.svg Ben Elias (c)
Prop Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Ian Roberts Western Suburbs colours.svg David Gillespie
Second Row Panthers colours.svg Mark Geyer Panthers colours.svg John Cartwright
Second Row Balmain colours.svg Paul Sironen Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Ian Roberts Canberra colours.svg Bradley Clyde
Lock Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Des Hasler Canberra colours.svg Bradley Clyde St. George colours.svg Brad Mackay
Interchange Canberra colours.svg Glenn Lazarus Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Des Hasler
Interchange Western Suburbs colours.svg David Gillespie St. George colours.svg Brad Mackay Panthers colours.svg Brad Izzard
Interchange Cronulla colours.svg Mark McGaw Eastern Suburbs colours.svg Craig Salvatori
Interchange Panthers colours.svg Brad Fittler Panthers colours.svg John Cartwright North Sydney colours.svg David Fairleigh
Coach Canberra colours.svg Tim Sheens


Position Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Fullback Brisbane colours.svg Paul Hauff
Wing Brisbane colours.svg Michael Hancock
Centre North Sydney colours.svg Peter Jackson
Centre Canberra colours.svg Mal Meninga
Wing Brisbane colours.svg Willie Carne
Five-Eighth Gold Coast Chargers colours.svg Wally Lewis (c)
Halfback Brisbane colours.svg Allan Langer
Prop Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Martin Bella
Hooker Canberra colours.svg Steve Walters
Prop Western Suburbs colours.svg Steve Jackson
Second Row Brisbane colours.svg Andrew Gee
Second Row Newcastle colours.svg Mike McLean
Lock North Sydney colours.svg Gary Larson
Interchange Brisbane colours.svg Kevin Walters
Interchange Brisbane colours.svg Steve Renouf Brisbane colours.svg Dale Shearer
Interchange Canberra colours.svg Gary Coyne
Interchange Brisbane colours.svg Gavin Allen Western Suburbs colours.svg Bob Lindner
Coach Manly Sea Eagles colours.svg Graham Lowe


  1. ^ State Of Origin - Game 1, 1991 at stats.rleague.com
  2. ^ Queensland def. New South Wales (6-4) - 8 May 1991 at nrlstats.com
  3. ^ State Of Origin 1991 Series - Game 1 at rugbyleagueproject.org
  4. ^ State Of Origin - Game 2, 1991 at stats.rleague.com
  5. ^ New South Wales def. Queensland (14-12) - 29 May 1991 at nrlstats.com
  6. ^ State Of Origin 1991 Series - Game 2 at rugbyleagueproject.org
  7. ^ "State of Origin - 1990s". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia: Fairfax Digital. 27 April 2010. Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  8. ^ Steve Ricketts; Barry Dick; Paul Malone (23 May 2012). "The 30 greatest controversies in 30 years of State of Origin series". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 26 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 State of Origin moments". centenaryofrugbyleague.com.au. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "Mr Wally Lewis AM". Queensland Sport Hall of Fame. qsport.org.au. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Sydney Football Stadium Magic Moments". sydneycricketground.com.au. Sydney Cricket & Sports Ground Trust. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  12. ^ State Of Origin - Game 3, 1991 at stats.rleague.com
  13. ^ Queensland def. New South Wales (14-12) - 12-Jun-1991 at nrlstats.com
  14. ^ State Of Origin 1991 Series - Game 3 at rugbyleagueproject.org
  15. ^ Barrow, Tim (6 July 2011). "State of Origin: The deciders". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

  • Big League's 25 Years of Origin Collectors' Edition, News Magazines, Surry Hills, Sydney
  • Chesterton, Ray (1996) Good as Gould, Ironbark, Sydney