Lockyer: Hand-grenade insult still hurts
DARREN Lockyer says NSW's hand-grenade insult the last time the Blues won a series 3-0 sends a message down the decades of the consequences of not playing with pride.
It's 18 years since NSW forward Bryan Fletcher celebrated a try in their 56-16 win in Sydney by miming to pull the pin of a football and throw it on the ground, sending teammates, including skipper Brad Fittler, falling theatrically to the ground.
Fittler said this week he had moved to ensure NSW player do not resort to anything like it in Wednesday night's dead rubber at Suncorp Stadium because he knew Queensland had used the prank as motivation for years after it.
In hindsight, the big surprise about the 40-point loss, Queensland's heaviest in Origin football, was that the Maroons team included Origin stalwarts such as Lockyer, Gorden Tallis, Shane Webcke, Brad Thorn, Ben Ikin and skipper Adrian Lam.
"We deserved to be embarrassed and that embarrassed us,'' Lockyer said on Tuesday.
"We were in no position to be offended by it. It's gone down in Origin folklore as a reference point that if you give them an opportunity they will disrespect you. You have to play with pride and if you don't you will be embarrassed and potentially disrespected.
"Most people would say how does that come into a State of Origin game. It wasn't a reflection of NSW. It was a reflection of how Queensland were going at the time, that that could take place in a State of Origin game.
"Chris Close described the game as the darkest day and I can't think of a worse point. We had some big names and we were playing for pride, but we were guilty of putting up the white flag that night.''
Fletcher's pre-planned grenade celebration in 2000 was partly inspired by a scene in a movie about American football, "Any Given Sunday'', and was carried out at a time when Channel 9's Footy Show was encouraging teams to celebrate tries in elaborate fashion.
"We've advised them against doing anything like that (in Game III),'' Fittler said.
"They (Queensland teams) have used it as a motivation for a long time. I suppose at the time it was funny. But not ever since.''
Lockyer said he does not remember the Blues stunt being an issue among those Maroons players retained in 2001 when Wayne Bennett made mass changes and won the series 2-1.
"When Wayne took over he knew what he wanted to do, with the fresh blood he brought in,'' he said.
Only seven times in 37 years has an Origin series been won 3-0 and Lockyer said he had noticed a trend in "dead rubbers''.
"There are other considerations with this game, such as it being Billy Slater's last game, but what I find with dead rubbers if you win the battle early, you tend to stay on top,'' he said.
"There's not enough desire there for one or the other to dig deep and find something to win the game from behind. You can potentially put a score on the other team if you get on top.''