Birthdays don’t come much better than Queensland’s record 52-6 State of Origin series-clinching win, coach Mal Meninga reckons.
And Meninga hopes it means age is not a discussion topic again when it comes to his all-conquering Maroons.
There were no prizes for guessing what Meninga wanted on his 55th birthday in his unprecedented 30th Origin at the Queensland helm.
He couldn’t hide his delight after Queensland’s eight tries to one romp in front of a sold out Suncorp Stadium sealed their ninth series triumph in 10 years.
It provided a fitting farewell for 33-year-old centre Justin Hodges who captain Cameron Smith let hold aloft the trophy as the Maroons went into party mode.
“From a coaching perspective to have 17 play at the best of their ability for themselves and each other – that’s the best birthday present ever,” Meninga said.
“It’s an extraordinary thing to achieve.”
Eight members of Queensland’s 17 were on the wrong side of 30 – including seven in the starting 13.
But Meninga hoped it was never again an issue after his side’s stunning response to having their record eight straight series streak snapped last year.
“They keep pestering with that age thing – it’s not an issue,” Meninga said.
“We had to be smart with the football (on Wednesday night), and that was generated through the older players like Smithy (Cameron Smith) and Cozza (player of the series Corey Parker).
“The leadership group, the ‘older players’, were fantastic.
“We had a defensive focus in the lead-up and I don’t think I have ever seen a better defensive effort from a Queensland side. It all came from great intent.”
Retirement plans did not appear to be on anyone else’s radar despite Hodges drawing the curtain on his 12-year, 24-game Origin career.
“No, we’re not going too bad (for older players),” said 33-year-old Parker after claiming the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the series.
“I suppose from the media’s perspective you’ve got to write something.
“That was certainly topical at the time but I’m not sure what you’re going to write now.”
Asked if they had proven a point in game three, Smith said: “I think we were proving a point to ourselves to be honest.
“I think every time you walk on the field you have to prove a point to someone, whether it’s your coach, your teammates, yourself, someone who doubts you.
“We’ve had a fair few of those after the last two years.
“After game two (26-18 loss) it was a point to prove to ourselves that we are a great footy side.
“That belief is always there but sometimes when you don’t play well you need to regain that confidence.”
The final word went to Hodges who was given the honour of kicking the final conversion, providing welcome relief to Johnathan Thurston’s boot.
“We are going to miss him,” Meninga said.
“Apart from being an extraordinary player, he loves putting on the maroon jersey.
“He is one of our leaders…and one of our characters – we will miss him.”