LISTEN to legendary Maroons Orgin second-rower Gary Larson and you might wonder why Mal Meninga quit his political career after just 28 seconds.
According to his former teammate, Queensland coach "Big Mal" has achieved the improbable by bridging the generation gap and instilling a bunch of tweet-happy 20-somethings with the roll-up-your-sleeves grit of the Queensland battler.
"He's the reason Queensland's had all the success it has had," Larson said while on the Sunshine Coast for a Men of League lunch.
"What he's done since coming into the job (in 2006) has been nothing short of phenomenal."
Even as Origin - on the brink of its 100th game - moves further from its working-class roots, Larson sees connections with the generations that inspired him.
A minimum wage earner may have to work almost 27 hours to afford a pair of midrange seats at Suncorp Stadium, but the characters they will be watching remain unchanged.
Their names are different and they are faster, stronger and certainly better skilled, but they are all Larsons in a way.
Has State of Origin changed since the old days?
This poll ended on 25 May 2015.
These days it's pretty-boys too afraid to get biffed
Too many rules, just kill the dill with the pill
It's more athletic and skillful these days, no comparison
They're legends but they'd be hammered to a pulp by today's lot
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Between the YOLOs they speak his language and underneath the plucked eyebrows they share his determined glare.
"That's Mal's influence," Larson said.
"He knew what it was about, obviously, because he played.
"He knew how important it was to bring in ex-Origin players to pass that on to these guys."
Larson flew to Sydney last year when Johnathan Thurston broke his record of 24 consecutive appearances and was struck by how grounded the players were.
"They know what it's about," Larson said.
"They know what's required of them and what's on the line."
Driving dump trucks at Port of Gladstone, Larson does not hang out with current NRL players, yet he still feels a connection with every player who represents Queensland.
"Every player who has pulled on that jersey will feel a connection, whether you've played one or you've played 18, 19, whatever," Larson said.
"You will feel that special bond with it. You're all part of the family. Whether the streak ends this year, next year or any year in the future, that tradition has been passed on now."
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