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'We were keen to stick it into them': Kennedy on 2000 clean sweep carnage

Origin I in 2000 was close right until full-time, but the send-off of a Queensland great opened the floodgates and the Maroons never recovered for the entire series, recalls NSW forward Ben Kennedy.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, Kennedy gives his view on the Blues' most dominant series performance. This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

Ben Kennedy: 'We were keen to stick it to them'

It's funny to look back at it now but we were so dominant in the 2000 series that people were saying we were too good, and that maybe it wasn't worth playing a third match in future.

This was my second series - I'd come in for game two in 1999, which we won, and then was in the team for the drawn game three. It was always exciting playing an Origin game and watching that stuff unfold in front of you was surreal.

The first game in 2000 was right in the balance and then it all kicked off.

Gorden Tallis is sent off by Bill Harrigan in Origin I, 2000.
Gorden Tallis is sent off by Bill Harrigan in Origin I, 2000. ©NRL Photos

Ryan Girdler, who had a fantastic series, scored a try which the Queenslanders thought had two knock-ons in the lead-up. It took it to 16-16 and Gorden Tallis had a decent crack at referee Bill Harrigan and was sent off.

Off Gordie went and that was the boost we needed - it wasn't long after David Peachey went over to give us the win.

If I was a Queenslander I reckon what Gordie said is exactly what I would have been thinking!

David Peachey and Jamie Ainscough celebrate after the NSW fullback's match-winning try in game one.
David Peachey and Jamie Ainscough celebrate after the NSW fullback's match-winning try in game one. ©NRL Photos

We definitely got the rub of the green in that game and so there were a few tempers already starting to boil over, and even though the game was still close, I think that was the final straw for them.

I'm pretty sure Gordie just said what every Queenslander wanted to say to Harrigan that night.

I don't know if they just lost it then and there but from that first game, which was so close and intense, it all changed suddenly.

Game two was one where we really clicked and put a few points on them (28-10).

We could have eased off after that but we were really keen to stick it into them, as you do when you get on top.

We were relaxed in the build-up under coach Wayne Pearce but it didn't take anything away from what we wanted to do - we went in there with a more fierce mindset than ever and Girds really took advantage, scoring all those points (32 in a 56-16 win).

Ben Kennedy tries to break free from Darren Smith and Ben Ikin.
Ben Kennedy tries to break free from Darren Smith and Ben Ikin. ©NRL Photos

Junior Pearce was a very positive man. Sure he was fairly intense but nowhere near as intense as Gus Gould or Ricky Stuart. He was just finding himself as a coach and that clean sweep was a great moment for him.

He had us in control for that series. If you have to get hyped up for an Origin game there’s an issue - you shouldn’t be there.

I grew up as a kid learning about it all - the hatred between the states, what it means to people ... my family for instance, and their friends. I never needed any hype to fire up.

Every player out there would have dreamt of playing it, and would have lived it as kids. They knew why they were there.

Any Origin game is such a massive game and all the fire you needed was right there inside.

There’s no doubt State of Origin was the most intense, exciting football I played in my life. I lived for it, loved it. It brings out every emotion inside you.

Ryan Girdler starred for NSW in the 2000 series with a record 52 points.
Ryan Girdler starred for NSW in the 2000 series with a record 52 points. ©NRL Photos

I don't remember much of the details of games, even series - they blur into one - but I do remember playing games and thinking, "Christ, I can’t go any further, the half must almost be over", and I'd look up and there were nine minutes gone!

In the forwards you're running around that much you’re just completely knackered; you're just running around like mad and it's that intense, that fast, you’re hanging on for a break in play, trying to suck it in and recover to go again.

You had to dig deep and you just couldn't let people down - from your mates, teammates, coach, your whole state - you just could not let them down.

It was played at this incredible pace the whole game and you found out a lot about yourself and the people around you.

I absolutely loved it. It's the best football you ever play.

I was probably more proud to pull on an Australian jumper - you're Australian before you're from a certain state - but best football? Most intense football? Nothing gets even close to Origin.

- as told to Tony Harper

Full Match Replay: Blues v Maroons - Game 3, 2000

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