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State of Origin History - A complete guide to the ultimate sporting rivalry

Andrew Hendrie 26 Apr 2017
  • State of Origin history
  • A guide to the history of the greatest rivalry in Australian sport
State of Origin is known as the greatest rivalry in Australian sport

State of Origin is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most popular sporting events and one of the nation’s greatest sporting rivalries - read on below for a complete history on the massive rugby league interstate series!

State of Origin pits the Australian states of New South Wales (Blues) and Queensland (Maroons) against each other in an annual best-of-three games series which, over time, has transformed into one of the most-watched sporting events in the country.

Often described as Australian sport’s greatest rivalry and the highest level of rugby league one can witness, State of Origin as we know it today was first established in 1982 as respective rugby league associations from both New South Wales and Queensland came to an agreement on selection policies and series guidelines.


Under the leadership of rugby league immortal Wally Lewis, Queensland enjoyed an early period of dominance, winning the first three State of Origin series 2-1 between 1982-84.

New South Wales would claim their first series win in 1985, with Steve Mortimer leading the Blues to victory in the series deciding match at the SCG. New South Wales would continue that winning momentum the following year, making history by becoming the first team to complete the State of Origin whitewash, securing the series 3-0. There have been only six more series whitewashes up until the commencement of the 2017 series.

Queensland would return to the winners circle in 1987, taking the series 2-1, however there was some controversy this year, with a fourth game played at Long Beach in California in an attempt to showcase and broaden rugby league’s appeal to Americans. The move largely failed with only 12,349 fans showing up to the game, which NSW won 30-18. The Australian Rugby League (ARL) has since declared the game didn’t count towards official records, but did count towards the players’ individual statistics.

For the second time in its short history, Queensland would go on to emerge triumphant in three series in succession, winning in 1988 and 1989 by dominant 3-0 scorelines - the first times the Maroons registered a series whitewash.


However New South Wales would enjoy the bulk of victories during the 1990s, winning six of the series played to Queensland’s three (the 1999 series was drawn but Queensland retained the shield due to winning in 1998). Queensland’s senior players of the 1980s had all retired, allowing New South Wales to win the 1992, 1993 and 1994 series, with the likes of Brett Mullins, Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart, Bradley Clyde and Benny Elias all laying the foundations of becoming future Origin legends for the Blues.

Queensland were on the back foot heading into the 1995 series (mainly due to the Super League saga which prohibited many Queenslanders signed with the Super League to play for their state), but the Maroons produced arguably the greatest shock in State of Origin history, when a team of rookies led by first-time coach Paul Vautin emerged surprise 3-0 winners.

New South Wales would restore parity and win the next two series by 3-0 and 2-1 scorelines respectively, but Queensland ended the 1990s on top, winning in 1998 and 1999, with the latter going down as one of the most thrilling series in history as each side won one game and the deciding game ended in a draw. The Maroons retained the shield due to winning in 1998.

2000s to present

It appeared as if New South Wales were starting to become the dominant force in State of Origin heading into the early stages of the 2000s, with the Blues winning in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005, led by Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler (Queensland won in 2001 and retained the shield again after another drawn series in 2002). It meant that New South Wales had won 10 outright series to just four from Queensland since 1990. How wrong we all were…

In what has now become part of State of Origin folklore, Queensland began an unprecedented period of dominance in 2006, winning a record eight consecutive series all the way through to 2013 under the tutelage of the legendary Mal Meninga. Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith formed Queensland’s ‘spine’ through the majority of those years, with the foursome all in contention to go down as future rugby league immortals.

New South Wales would finally snap their losing run with a famous series triumph in 2014, with Canterbury Bulldogs halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson the unlikely pairing to break down the brick-wall Queensland defence, while inspirational captain Paul Gallen finally claimed a first series win after years of heartbreak. But the Blues’ joy was short-lived, with Queensland restoring parity in 2015 and 2016, winning both series 2-1, meaning they’ve won 10 of the last 11 series heading into 2017.

State of Origin results

Complete State of Origin results

YearWinnerWinsLossesDrawnShield Winner
1985New South Wales210New South Wales
1986New South Wales300New South Wales
1990New South Wales210New South Wales
1992New South Wales210New South Wales
1993New South Wales210New South Wales
1994New South Wales210New South Wales
1996New South Wales300New South Wales
1997New South Wales210New South Wales
2000New South Wales300New South Wales
2003New South Wales210New South Wales
2004New South Wales210New South Wales
2005New South Wales210New South Wales
2014New South Wales210New South Wales

State of Origin records

  • Most points scored in a game: 72, New South Wales 56 - 16 Queensland (Game III, 2000)
  • Most points scored by a team: 56, New South Wales 56 - 16 Queensland (Game III, 2000)
  • Largest winning margin: 46, Queensland 52 - 6 New South Wales (Game III, 2015)
  • Most consecutive games won: 8, Queensland (Game II, 1987 - Game III, 1989)
  • Most consecutive series won: 8, Queensland (2006–2013)
  • Most series clean sweeps: 4, Queensland (1988–1989, 1995, 2010)
  • Oldest player: 36 years 74 days, Petero Civoniceva (2012) (Queensland)
  • Youngest player: 18 years and 83 days, Ben Ikin (1995) (Queensland)
  • Most games: 39 Cameron Smith (2003–present) (Queensland)
  • Most consecutive games: 35 Johnathan Thurston (2005–present) (Queensland)
  • Most games as captain: 30 Wally Lewis (1981–1991) (Queensland)
  • Most games won: 24 Cameron Smith (2003–present) (Queensland)
  • Most series won: 10 Johnathan Thurston (2006–2013, 2015–present) (Queensland)1 & Cameron Smith (2006–2013, 2015–present) (Queensland)
  • Most points: 224 Johnathan Thurston (2005–present) (Queensland)
  • Most tries: 18 Greg Inglis (2006–present) (Queensland)
  • Most goals: 101 Johnathan Thurston (2005–present) (Queensland)
  • Most points in one game: 32 Ryan Girdler (Game III, 2000) (New South Wales)
  • Most points in one series: 52 Ryan Girdler (2000) (New South Wales)
  • Most games coached: 30 Mal Meninga (2006–2015) (Queensland)
  • Most games won as coach: 19 Mal Meninga (2006–2015) (Queensland)
  • Most series won as coach: 9 Mal Meninga (2006–2015) (Queensland)

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State of Origin History - A complete guide to the ultimate sporting rivalry

State of Origin is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most popular sporting events and one of the nation’s greatest sporting rivalries - click for a complete history on the massive rugby league interstate series!

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