Paul Gallen’s State of Origin highlight was never going to be his debut.
In the same match as the ill-fated Brett Hodgson pass, 24-year-old Gallen’s entry to the representative arena in game III, 2006 coincided with the beginning of the darkest era in NSW Origin history.
Nor will he remembered most for the punch that ended all punches.
A crushing blow to the forehead of Nate Myles in 2013 that brought an end to brawls in rugby league, but in his eyes represented a moment where the Blues showed they were ready to fight back.
The crowning moment of his career so far – when he became the first NSW skipper to lift the shield in nine years in 2014 – is also by no means his most powerful.
Although it was a fitting reward.
Instead, Gallen’s legacy was created in Game II of 2011, when a colossal 80-minute, 212m performance in his second game as skipper put pride and starch back into the Blues jersey.
In the four years that preceded that game, NSW had won just won just one “live” fixture.
Since then, they have claimed six and Gallen has carried his NSW side both on the field and off it.
“As a kid I never followed an NRL team,” Gallen said.
“But I always followed NSW.”
The numbers alone are not kind to Gallen.
His 15 losses from 23 games are the most for any player in Origin history, however it says more about him that he has been selected consistently to play that many games in an era during which the Blues have churned through 97 players.
So too does the fact he led the Blues forwards in average run metres in every series between 2010 and 2014.
Further proof that Gallen gave Blues fans a reason to believe lies in attendance figures at ANZ Stadium which have not dropped below 80,000 since he became captain in 2011 – a figure they didn’t reach in any of the games in the five years before that.
“I’ve played the villain a bit to keep people interested,” Gallen has admitted.
And with every pre-Origin spiel, he showed not only an understanding of Origin football but the steel NSW required to rebuild from the ruins.
It’s also why Gallen understands how Wednesday’s dead rubber is just as important for not only his legacy, but the Blues one that carries on after him.
“The young boys moving forward, they need some confidence going into next year,” he said.
“That’s why we need to be totally desperate on Wednesday night in everything we do.”
PAUL GALLEN’S ORIGIN CAREER
Games captained: 15
Debut: Game III, 2006
Average minutes: 63
Average metres: 139.8
Average tackles: 30.8
* Statistics courtesy Fox Sports Stats