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Origin Flashback: Joey's '05 masterclass

The greatest Origin performance of all time.

That's the only way to describe the Game II performance of Andrew Johns in the 2005 series.

And it almost never happened.

Brett Kimmorley was the preferred choice of Ricky Stuart before throwing a decisive intercept in golden point of Game I.

Come Game II, and Joey's name was tossed up as a potential replacement. However, Trent Barrett was the man initially named in the No.7.

Johns was overlooked with many doubting his fitness after lasting just one game in a comeback from an ACL tear. The ensuing broken jaw meant The Great Man had played just nine games in two seasons.

Not that it mattered to Joey.

When Barrett was ruled out mid-week, Stuart didn't hesitate to send an SOS up the M1. 

Just hours later, Johns was back.

The mood of the Blues camp, reeling from a heartbreaking Game I loss which left them needing a win to save the series, shot through the roof the second Joey stepped onto the paddock.

Comparisons were instantly made in the media between Johns and the infamous return of Allan Langer in 2001 and Brad Fittler a year prior.

Come kick-off, all eyes were on the NSW No.7 with 82,000 fans at Stadium Australia roaring to life every time he touched the ball.

Extended Highlights: Blues v Maroons

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Little did they know, they were about to witness greatness of the highest level.

It took just 14 minutes for Johns to put his stamp on the contest.

The maestro struck the upright from almost 50 metres out from the line, perfectly setting up a flying Anthony Minichiello to open the scoring.

Johns had clearly added a new dimension to the Blues attack, with the team looking much improved to the one which went down in Game I.

Despite this, Queensland still managed to take a 12-8 lead into half time after tries to Billy Slater and Brad Thorn.

This left the Maroons just 40 minutes away from wrapping up a famous series win.

But that's not what Johns had in mind.

A 40/20 just after half time turned the game on it's head, before Johns had a hand in all four of the second half tries which handed the Blues a 32-22 win.

The No.7 pulled the strings with a faultless kicking performance, refusing to give the Maroons an inch for the entire contest. He also kicked 3/3 conversions.

He finished the game with 96 run metres, two line breaks, two try assists, one line break assist and one forced drop out in a man of the match display.

But what can't be measured by stats is the influence Johns had on his team mates.

Already a living rugby league legend, the impact of Johns' presence was immense on the players around him.

Needless to say, the Blues went on to crush Queensland in the decider at Suncorp Stadium, coming from behind to win the series 2-1.

For context, NSW are yet to win another decider on enemy territory, some 17 years later.

Johns was again masterful on the night, kicking Queensland to death and coming up with three try assists.

Watch: Joey masterclass clinches '05 decider

Ultimately, if there were any doubters to Joey's legacy, they were silenced in 160 rugby league minutes.

But it all traces back to THAT performance at Stadium Australia.

The one which will forever be known as the greatest of all time.