The thought still sends a shudder down Cameron Smith’s spine.
What if Darren Lockyer hadn’t intercepted that pass?
Queensland hope to honour the 10th anniversary of their landmark 2006 State of Origin III win by sealing a rare series whitewash at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.
History shows Lockyer launched a Maroons dynasty when he pounced on an errant Brett Hodgson pass and scored the winning try to break NSW’s three series winning run.
Smith remembers it fondly as the match that not only sparked Queensland’s unprecedented Origin dominance but ignited the careers of some of rugby league’s greats.
But Smith – now the Maroons captain – admits he sometimes wonders what would have happened if Lockyer hadn’t been lurking that night.
“I do now and again,” he said.
“It was a turning point in Origin history and a lot of our careers.”
Back in 2006, the Origin landscape could not have been more different ahead of game three.
A dominant NSW were on the verge of a then-record four straight series victories.
It wasn’t just Origin careers on the line.
The Origin concept itself was under fire due to the Blues’ unprecedented winning run.
“That was the most worried I had been before a game I reckon,” Smith said about just his third full series for Queensland.
“Everyone thought their job was on the line.
“Back then I think only Lockyer, Petero (Civoniceva) and Steve Price had won a series victory – they (NSW) had won three in a row.”
Ten years later Queensland are in a different predicament ahead of game three.
They have already sealed their 10th series win in 11 years.
And they hope to clinch only their fifth whitewash.
The survivors of the Queensland team – Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Nate Myles and Sam Thaiday – have come a long way since that 2006 scare.
But Smith said memories of how things could have been so different 10 years ago would ensure the Maroons never took success for granted.
“That game changed the course of Origin itself,” Smith said.
“That put us on the course of eight straight.
“That night helps your confidence, your self belief – that nothing is impossible.
“That is what is great about sport – it can have a positive effect on your life.”
The man who helped inspire their decade of dominance – coach Mal Meninga – may have moved on this year.
But Smith – ahead of a record 39th Origin – said the spirit of 2006 still ran through the team under new coach Kevin Walters.
“That’s what I thought Mal brought back that was lost I think – that trust in each other, valuing your teammate and jersey,” Smith said.