1997 State of Origin series
|1997 State of Origin series|
|Won by||New South Wales (8th title)|
|Attendance||86,568 (ave. 28,856 per match)|
|Top points scorer(s)||Julian O'Neill (12)|
|Top try scorer(s)||Andrew Johns (2)|
The 1997 State of Origin series was the 16th year that the annual best-of-three series of interstate rugby league football matches between the Queensland and New South Wales representative teams was contested entirely under 'state of origin' selection rules. Like the 1995 State of Origin series, players from clubs aligned with Super League were not eligible for selection. Gone were established players Laurie Daley, Allan Langer, Ricky Stuart, Wendell Sailor, Glenn Lazarus, Bradley Clyde, Gorden Tallis and Kevin Walters - all representing their respective states in the newly invented Super League Tri-series.
For the Australian Rugby League loyalists, younger talent in Andrew Johns, Matt Sing, Ben Ikin, Adrian Lam, Trent Barrett, Steve Menzies and Robbie O'Davis all came of age in 1997. Fought out against the backdrop of public disillusion and a game bitterly divided due to the Super League war, 1997's was a dour series. The spirit was there, and some new faces, but the intensity wasn't quite the same. The New South Wales camp was brightened with the arrival of one of Australian rugby league's traditional and colourful characters in Tommy Raudonikis as coach who guided New South Wales to their fifth series win in six years on the back of the strong legacy left by Raudonikis' predecessor coach Phil Gould.
|Queensland||6–8||New South Wales|
|Adrian Lam(4 - 1t)
Wayne Bartrim (2 - 1g)
|(Report)||(4 - 1t) Paul McGregor
(2 - 1g) Andrew Johns
(2 - 1g) Rod Wishart
Tommy Raudonikis' Blues gained the ascendency in game I - a match lacking the traditional early Origin intensity but which came alive in the second half as the prospect of a New South Wales triumph became reality. The Blues lead 8-0 at half-time after a try to Paul McGregor in the 31st minute and a goal each to Rod Wishart and Andrew Johns.
Injuries conspired against the visitors with McGregor, Wishart and Johns all forced from the field and sensing vulnerability the Maroons surged back. Queensland dominated the second-half but the Blues defence held out. Eventually weight of possession told and the Blues were cut to a 2-point lead when Maroons debutant Adrian Lam - a Papua New Guinean representative given dispensation to play Origin since 1995 - scored in the 68th minute.
New South Wales' brave and nuggety hooker Geoff Toovey lifted for the occasion and in the last ten minutes made a series of probing darts which kept the Maroons on the back foot and which earned him man-of-the-match honours and victory for the Blues.
|New South Wales||15–14||Queensland|
|Ken McGuinness (4 - 1t)
Nik Kosef (4 - 1t)
Jim Dymock (4 - 1t)
John Simon (3 - 1g, 1fg)
|(Report)||(4 - 1t) Matt Sing
(4 - 1t) Robbie O'Davis
(4 - 1t) Brett Dallas
(2 - 1g) Julian O'Neill
New South Wales looked to have wrapped up Game II by racing to a 14-0 lead after just 27 minutes via tries to Ken McGuinness, Nik Kosef and Jim Dymock. However Queensland kept their cool and reduced the deficit to 14-10 at halftime with two tries in four minutes to Matt Sing and Robbie O'Davis.
The Maroons levelled the scores five minutes after the break when Brett Dallas broke a Jamie Ainscough tackle and crossed for 14-all. There were no further points in a classic tight contest until the 69th minute when Blues half John Simon landed a 26-metre field goal. The Queensland camp was left to rue a missed penalty attempt by Julian O'Neill in the dying minutes, presenting NSW victory and their fifth series win in six years.
Game III was dead-rubber with only pride and soul at stake for the Maroons who were facing their second consecutive whitewash.
|Queensland||18–12||New South Wales|
|Julian O'Neill (10 - 1t, 3g)
Ben Ikin (4 - 1t)
Mark Coyne (4 - 1t)
|(Report)||(6 - 1t,1g) Andrew Johns
(4 - 1t) Jamie Ainscough
(2 - 1g) John Simon
Queensland were outstanding on the night at the Blues' home ground and broke a five-game losing streak to win 18-12. Ben Ikin was the Maroons' hero, scoring a superb solo try after just four minutes and then firing a pass for Julian O'Neill to extend the Queensland lead to 12-0 at the 13-minute mark. New South Wales came back with tries to Ainscough and Johns but a Mark Coyne try sealed the victory for the Maroons.
With Queensland leading 6-0 following Ikin's try, there were a number of spiteful incidents. Queensland front rower Clinton O'Brien was all but knocked out attempting to tackle Blues prop Mark Carroll, while rival hookers Andrew Johns and Jamie Goddard also traded punches. Then from a scrum near half way, Carroll flattened replacement Maroons prop Craig Smith (who had only just come on for O'Brien), while Johns and Goddard continued their private war with Johns actually running around one of the touch judges to continue the fight, though the issue was soon put beyond doubt when Goddard landed a right hand that put the future rugby league Immortal on the deck and requiring stitches from a split lip. Referee Eddie Ward soon restored order to the game, penalising Carroll for the scrum blow up while sending both Johns and Goddard to the sin-bin, while Johns was also placed on report.
New South Wales teams
|Position||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3|
|Wing||Rod Wishart||Ken McGuinness|
|Centre||Paul McGregor||Jamie Ainscough|
|Wing||Jamie Ainscough||Matt Seers|
|Five-eighth||Jim Dymock||Trent Barrett|
|Halfback||Geoff Toovey (c)||John Simon||Geoff Toovey (c)|
|Hooker||Andrew Johns||Geoff Toovey (c)||Andrew Johns|
|Second Row||Steve Menzies|
|Second Row||Adam Muir|
|Interchange||John Simon||Matt Seers||John Simon|
|Interchange||Ken McGuinness||Aaron Raper||Michael Buettner|
|Position||Game 1||Game 2||Game 3|
|Centre||Matt Sing||Stuart Kelly||Mark Coyne|
|Centre||Mark Coyne||Julian O'Neill|
|Wing||Danny Moore||Matt Sing|
|Halfback||Adrian Lam (c)|
|Prop||Neil Tierney||Clinton O'Brien|
|Hooker||Jamie Goddard||Wayne Bartrim||Jamie Goddard|
|Prop||Craig Smith||Neil Tierney|
|Second Row||Gary Larson|
|Second Row||Billy Moore||Jason Smith|
|Lock||Wayne Bartrim||Billy Moore|
|Interchange||Jason Smith||Jamie Goddard||Stuart Kelly|
|Interchange||Tony Hearn||Clinton O'Brien||Craig Smith|
|Interchange||Stuart Kelly||Julian O'Neill||Wayne Bartrim|
- Big League's 25 Years of Origin Collectors' Edition, News Magazines, Surry Hills, Sydney