They were derided as “Dad’s Army” in the build up, but Queensland captain Cameron Smith says their nail-biting win in the State of Origin opener is proof there is no substitute for experience.
The Maroons took a 1-0 lead in the series after starring performances from the champion side’s old hands.
After Australia’s Test loss to New Zealand in May, there were suggestions that some in the representative ranks had played on too long and a youth policy was ripe for the introduction.
Queensland went into the match with an average age of 29 but instead of lagging due to weary legs in the second half, it was in the closing stages that the Maroons pressed their advantage in the 11-10 win.
Queensland’s brigade of veterans all stood up in key moments.
Matt Scott, 29, worked himself to a standstill with 120 metres and 21 tackles.
Corey Parker, 33, did likewise, making 121 metres and 24 tackles.
Cooper Cronk, 31, proved the match-winner with his 74th minute field goal.
The 31-year-old Smith was tireless in defence, making 41 tackles, and his kicking game was superb out of dummy-half in a man-of-the-match performance.
The Melbourne rake will play his 35th Origin match in front of his adopted home crowd at the MCG in three weeks and will go level with Darren Lockyer’s all-time Origin games record if he stays fit for the third game in Brisbane.
He said it was the side’s experience which proved the most valuable in key moments.
“(NSW) were good enough to get across our line but the second half was more controlled, a lot more patient and we came away with a victory,” he said.
“Experience certainly helps it at this level and in tight matches as it was tonight … I think we set our positions nicely for that field goal and Cooper’s kicked one before in Origin, so we better go back to the man.”