State Of Origin Top 5 Farewells
Not everyone gets the fairytale farewell but for these greats of the game it seemed only fitting that they bow out in a blaze of glory.
5. Rocky start, rousing finish for Hodgo, Game 3, 2015
When Justin Hodges was hooked from the field in his debut Origin game in 2002 after a wild in-goal pass had handed NSW a try, it seemed incomprehensible that this rattled teenager would go on to become one of Queensland's favourite sons.
It would take Hodges four more years to establish himself as a regular member of the Maroons team but from 2006 onwards the good times flowed as he savoured seven series wins.
On the night he signed off from Origin, the Maroons sent him out in style with a record 52-6 win, and Hodgo got in on the act with a miracle play to scoop the ball back from over the dead-ball line for a try to Matt Gillett. When Aidan Guerra scored with a minute to play the ball was handed to Hodges for a farewell conversion which he duly potted. Cue another Suncorp celebration.
4. Benny and Mal bow out together, Game 3, 1994
With a half-century of caps between them and both having had the honour of captaining their state, Benny Elias and Mal Meninga will always command plenty of ink when the Origin story is penned. Both were great champions and both deserved to go out on top but it would be Elias spoiling Mal's party at Lang Park on June 20l, 1994 as the Blues prevailed 27-12 to win the series.
Benny was in everything, making inroads from dummy half and snaffling an intercept to put Bradley Clyde over for a try. Despite Big Mal's best efforts and the urgings of the Maroons faithful, this was NSW's night – one for Elias to savour. And when it came time for the fans to honour Meninga the scoreline mattered little as they paid homage to a giant of the game.
3. The tears flow for Locky, Game 3, 2011
The sight of Johnathan Thurston coming onto Suncorp Stadium in a wheelchair to farewell his great mate Darren Lockyer was enough to make Maroon hearts skip a beat. JT had left the field with a serious knee injury but his team-mates had covered for his absence beautifully in a 34-24 win which wrapped up a sixth straight series win.
Wheeled onto the hallowed turf by team doctor Roy Saunders to be part of Lockyer's last stand, Thurston was overcome by emotion. His team-mates were quick to embrace their little mate as Locky told the crowd it had been a privilege to play for them.
Perhaps Ben Hannant put it best when he said, "You don't always get what you want, you get what you deserve and Darren Lockyer deserved everything he got tonight."
2. Wally puts family first, Game 3, 1991
You couldn't ask for a better Origin series than 1991, with all three matches decided by two points and the array of stars on show including Meninga, Langer, Walters, Renouf, Daley, Stuart, Elias, Roach and the King himself, Wally Lewis.
This was Origin drama at its most pure and to add another layer of emotion to the series decider at Lang Park, it would be the final Origin for spiritual leader Lewis after 30 games as captain of his state. Lewis found out that day that his one-year-old daughter Jamie-Lee was profoundly deaf and he informed team manager Dick "Tosser" Turner that he'd be retiring from Origin.
"I told Tosser, 'I've loved my time in football but I've got a little girl to look after now'," Lewis recalls. "He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'son, if you hadn't have told me this was your last game and you had a family to look after, I would have told you'." Fittingly the Maroons won it for Wally and the final chapter was written in a magical Origin story.
1. The Freddy phenomenon, Game 3, 2004
At 32 and in the twilight of a decorated career, Brad 'Freddy' Fittler soaked up the adulation of an adoring Sydney public as he marked his 31st and last Origin with a try and a win. In the 74th minute with the Blues coasting home, Fittler charged down a Darren Lockyer chip kick, regathered the ball and raced away to score with his arm raised in triumph. Fittler was mobbed by his Blues brothers and the ANZ Stadium crowd of 82,487 erupted. In typical Fittler fashion the final act in a storied representative career was a show stopper.