As part of a series looking back at four decades of State of Origin football, NRL.com revisits the 2005 series where the return of future Immortal Andrew Johns proved the catalyst for a famous series win for the Blues.
Coming off back-to-back series wins in 2003-04, the Blues were looking to become just the second NSW squad ever to win three straight series.
Captained by Newcastle rake Danny Buderus and coached by Ricky Stuart, the Blues were appearing in their first series since the retirement of Brad Fittler, whilst Queensland would be without stalwart prop Shane Webcke, with the 30-year-old having announced his retirement from representative rugby league.
The Blues handed debuts to Storm winger Matt King and Sea Eagles back-rower Anthony Watmough, whilst Sharks halfback Brett Kimmorley was recalled for the first time in four years to partner Trent Barrett in the halves for Game I.
The Blues possessed star power across the park – from Anthony Minichiello, Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper in the backs to the ever-consistent Ben Kennedy, Nathan Hindmarsh, Craig Fitzgibbon and Jason Ryles up front.
With Michael Hagan at the helm, the Maroons welcomed in debutants Johnathan Thurston, Ty Williams and Casey McGuire, whilst back-rower Brad Thorn earned his first selection in five years.
A young Billy Slater was given his first shot at fullback having debuted on the wing the previous year, while skipper Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith rounded out one of the finest spines in Maroons history.
It was an Immortal return, however, that would frame the 2005 State of Origin series.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Game One, Maroons 24 bt Blues 20 at Suncorp Stadium
More than 52,000 fans packed into Suncorp Stadium for the opening clash of the series.
A pair of Cameron Smith penalty goals opened the scoring before debutant Ty Williams picked up a loose ball that had cannoned off the knees of Billy Slater to claim the opening four-pointer.
Another Smith penalty goal coupled with a field goal off the boot of skipper Darren Lockyer on the stroke of half-time made it 13-0 at the break.
A bullet pass from Lockyer to hard-running back-rower Michael Crocker resulted in another converted try, with the Maroons’ lead ballooning out to 19-0.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
The Blues began to mount a comeback effort in the 52nd minute when Penrith winger Luke Rooney crossed in the corner before Anthony Minichiello burst into the back field and found centre Mark Gasnier to make it 19-8.
The Blues had all the momentum and Craig Fitzgibbon was next to cross when he cleaned up a Matt Cooper grubber before skipper Danny Buderus finished off a long-range raid and the visitors had miraculosuly hit the front.
In the 76th minute with Smith off the field, Lockyer was given a chance to re-take the lead with a penalty kick but he sprayed it to the right.
With their chances looking slimmer by the minute, the Maroons looked to their 22-year-old debutant Thurston who piloted a one-pointer between the sticks to send the game to golden point.
A few minutes into extra-time it was super-sub Matt Bowen pouncing on a Brett Kimmorley cut-out pass and sprinting 40 metres to give Queensland victory in an epic opening to the series.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Game Two, Blues 32 bt Maroons 22 at Telstra Stadium
Both sides made changes heading into Game II in Sydney that would go on to have major implications on the series.
The biggest story in the lead-up was the selection of Andrew Johns, who had played in just one game for Newcastle after a six-week lay-off with a broken jaw.
Bulldogs playmaker Braith Anasta was brought in to partner Johns in the halves, while Steve Simpson was elevated into the starting line-up and Steve Menzies was added to the bench.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
A high-scoring affair was played out in front of more than 82,000 fans at Sydney's Olympic stadium, with Johns putting on a masterclass and reminding everyone just how potent an attacking weapon he can be.
The first try of the game after Minichiello snatched up a Johns kick from almost 40 metres out that ricocheted off the goalpost padding.
Queensland answered with tries to Thorn and Slater to take a 12-8 lead after the first 40 minutes.
The start of the second half was all NSW as Minichiello, Menzies and Cooper poured on a trio of tries in under 15 minutes, with Johns having a hand in each of them.
A runaway effort from Bowen in the 69th minute kept Queensland’s chances alive before Johns put his Newcastle teammate Buderus over to ice it and set up a winner-take-all third game.
Johns erased any doubt that he was fit enough to compete at State of Origin level with a man-of-the-match performance for the ages.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Game Three, Blues 32 bt Maroons 10
The Cauldron was the perfect setting for the decider but the Blues would have to defy history to get the job done.
Much to the dismay of many Queenslanders, Slater was dropped for the decider, with Bowen taking his place in the run-on side.
The Maroons also welcomed back hardman Tonie Carroll and Ashley Harrison was selected to make his debut off the bench.
Magic of Johns provides King a second
The Blues soaked up plenty of early presusre before a Fitzgibbon penalty goal and an Anasta try gave them the edge.
NSW began making major inroads down Queensland’s left edge with Gasnier flying high to score off a pinpoint cross-field kick from Johns before a Minichiello pass sent King over in the corner.
Given the heat they had been under early the Blues had done a superb job to lead 18-0 at half-time and they would extend the lead soon after the break when King took advantage of a Johns inside ball to bag his second try.
Timana Tahu then scored off the back of a Queensland miscue to put the result beyond doubt.
Match Highlights: Maroons v Blues
King bagged a third try to ice a memorable win, becoming just the third New South Welshman after Chris Anderson and Ryan Girdler to score an Origin hat-trick.
Anthony Minichiello was named man of the match and man of the series and future Immortal Andrew Johns further etched his name in rugby league folklore with a comeback for the ages.
Play of the series
This series featured a plethora of memorable plays, but it’s hard to go past the opening try of Game II when an inch-perfect punt off the boot of Andrew Johns rebounded off the left goalpost, fooling a pair of Queenslanders and bobbling into the arms of a flying Anthony Minichiello.
Two Origin legends at the peak of their powers combining for a famous try, perhaps with a little luck involved.
Minichiello floats a pass out to King
Minichiello was the best on ground for the decider and took home the Wally Lewis Medal. He scored a double in Game II and was all over the park in both attack and defence for the entirety of the series.
He had a hand in a large chunk of NSW’s points and conducted the defensive line from the back as if it were his own personal orchestra.
Bowen slides over
“It’s what footy’s all about.” – Andrew Johns celebrating a series win after being rushed back into the NSW side, despite concerns surrounding his lack of match practice following knee and jaw injuries.
Danny Buderus - Hall of Fame
There was plenty of talk about Johns and Minichiello, as well as NSW’s electric outside backs but it would be unfair not to sing the praises of the Blues’ fearless leader Danny Buderus.
'Bedsy' played big minutes in all three games and was an integral part of the side’s attack, combining with Johns on countless occasions to deliver points, whilst being rock solid in defence.
The following year
The 2005 series was one to savour for NSW fans for a number of reasons.
Not only was it a famous victory sparked by one of the state’s best ever players, but it was the last series that the Blues would win for eight years.
Queensland scraped past NSW in the deciding game of 2006, kicking off a golden era led by the likes of Cameron Smith, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Sam Thaiday.