Gallen farewells Origin a winner

Paul Gallen stared at the big screen for a long time, hung his head, and then shook it in bitter disappointment.

Like Queensland had done time and again over the course of his entire State of Origin career, the Maroons scored in the game’s waning moments, and a whitewash loomed as the final denouement in his NSW career.

Here was the retiring Blues skipper, a surprise benching in the closing moments of game three, on the sidelines as the Maroons celebrated what loomed as yet another Origin victory from the jaws of defeat.

Up until then, Gallen had played 44 minutes in his farewell at ANZ Stadium.

But in a stunning flip of the script, the Blues, thanks largely to debutant James Tedesco’s last-gasp line break in the penultimate minute of the match, surged downfield in search of a miracle try.

A Cooper Cronk trysaver two metres from the line, looked to have agonisingly broken NSW hearts again.

But James Maloney popped up a looping long ball from the ensuing play-the-ball, in search of a hero.

And who else would receive it other than the late returning Gallen, a man who has been criticised for standing at first-receiver too many times.

What unfolded wasn’t anything special, he simply turned the ball inside for teammate Michael Jennings.

But on a night when the Blues were chastised and hated on for going wide too often, the pass was a godsend, with Jennings stepping past five onrushing defenders to slam down a game-winner.

“It’s sideline to sideline, east to west … they’ve been doing it since game one,” said Channel Nine commentator and long-time Gallen critic Phil Gould.

But here Gallen was, turning the ball on the outside for the match-winner before celebrating the moment with a successful conversion and an 18-14 win.

It must be said, it wasn’t his first try assist of the night either, after he offloaded to a stampeding Tyson Frizell for the opening points of the match.

“A series win would be nice. It’s all good but,” Gallen told Channel Nine post-game.

For all the cries of selfishness, Gallen did what Gallen always does, stepping into the frontline and providing a way.

On Wednesday, the final game of his career, it finally worked.

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