So much for the end of an era.
Queensland coach Mal Meninga laughed off criticism of his veteran side after they again turned back the clock to seal an 11-10 win in the State of Origin opener in Sydney on Wednesday night.
There was a sense of deja vu when Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk iced the result with a 74th minute field goal – just as his last gasp effort did for Queensland in 2012.
And the Maroons are again on track to ensure history will keep repeating after claiming the crunch series opener in front of a 80,122-strong ANZ Stadium crowd.
Told TV commentators were calling the 2015 series an “end of an era” for Queensland’s veterans, Meninga said: “They are wrong.”
“They are a fantastic bunch of fellas, some of the greats of the game, who keep proving the critics wrong – as a coach that is sensational.”
Cynics may liken Queensland to the Dad’s Army TV show but their Origin selection approach is best summed up by a movie – Groundhog Day.
And Meninga won’t be tempted to shelve his trusty loyalty card in game two in Melbourne on June 17 after his band of veterans again proved too good.
The Maroons boasted a side that had played over 160 more games, lining up against a beefed up NSW that looked to make up in sheer size what they lacked in experience.
But Maroons captain Cameron Smith – who became the second most capped player in Origin with 34 games – said their bond had again proved the difference on Wednesday night.
“We are not getting carried away,” he said.
“We know teams have come back from this.
“But it was a huge challenge coming here to Sydney.
“We were out on our feet but we found the effort – somehow – to get it done.”
NSW coach Laurie Daley finally discovered a winning formula when the Blues finally snapped Queensland’s record eight-straight series run last year – yet he still tinkered with it.
But for the majority of the match his gamble appeared to come off.
His most contentious pick – Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce at pivot – complemented the ever-reliable Trent Hodkinson.
Josh Dugan did his best Jarryd Hayne impersonation at fullback for NSW.
And the Blues’ monster pack – including an all-forwards bench – appeared to be taking their toll on Queensland’s veterans.
Yet the Maroons still found a way.
But asked if NSW could still win the series, Daley said: “Most definitely.
“From what I saw tonight, it gets me really excited.
“We were nowhere near our best – we will see what happens.”
On his halves, Daley added: “They will be back for game two – there’s a headline for you.”
NSW skipper Robbie Farah said he had “no idea” if he would play game two after injuring his shoulder in a Justin Hodges first half lifting tackle.
NSW led 10-6 at halftime after centre Josh Morris sealed a remarkable 60m effort.
Queensland winger Will Chambers’ 55th minute try locked up the scores, setting up a tense field goal duel.
Farah blamed himself for Dugan’s errant 78th minute field goal attempt, saying he was looking for Hodkinson’s reliable boot.
“I should have set it up in a better position – that was fatigue.”