DOUR and grind were words used to describe Queensland’s 6-4 win in Origin I this year.
But for endearing bush personality Terry Cook – who doesn’t mind referring to himself as one of the Maroons’ “Neville Nobodies” – it was beautiful.
It reminded Cook, who is the publican at the Jondaryan Hotel 40km out of Toowoomba, of that memorable 2-0 Origin I victory he was a part of back in 1995.
Cook was playing for the now-defunct South Queensland Crushers and was on the verge of signing to play for Atherton in north Queensland, which would have ended his ARL career.
“But at the last minute, just after Christmas (in 1994), Darryl van der Velde who was setting up the Crushers rang me and said ‘don’t sign with anyone yet’,” Cook told Australian Regional Media.
“‘We’re chasing Richie Blackmore, the Kiwis centre. If we get him bad luck you miss out. If we don’t get him we’d like you to play for us’. They didn’t get him and next thing I was signed with the Crushers, and 12 weeks later I’m playing Origin.”
This is why Cook, now 50 and who commentates on the Toowoomba Rugby League for radio station Power FM, believes “fairytales can happen”.
He never would have played Origin if it wasn’t for the Super League/ARL war, with the Maroons calling him up to play in the 1995 series due to the lack of Queensland players available.
What that team did was cause one of the biggest upsets in sport – not just rugby league – by clean-sweeping a Blues team full of Kangaroos stars.
“Fatty’s Nevilles” was the nickname given to the Queenslanders before the series, under coach Paul “Fatty” Vautin, with the team seen as no chance of even winning a game.
But after Vautin and team manager Chris Close famously revved up their charges before Game I by using the underdog theme to great effect, the Maroons pulled off a stunning 2-0 victory in Game I.
The confidence built from that win – with players giving their all in defence – was enough to win the next two games against all odds.
“As Johnathan Thurston said that (Origin I this year) was the greatest victory he’s been involved in just through sheer blokes turning up, even though there were blokes out there that were busted,” Cook said.
“It was fantastic – winning 6-4 was like us winning 2-0. Blokes just kept turning up.
“Every time New South Wales looked like scoring there’d be four or five blokes busting themselves to get there like Thurston coming over the top (and saving a try on Blues centre Josh Morris).
“It was just desperation for each other, for the team, for the state.”
That was exactly how “Fatty’s Nevilles” played in the Origin opener 21 years ago, after many footy pundits had written them off.
“A 2-0 score in the first game was sensational – I think Matty Sing held them up four times and Robbie O’Davis held them up, Rowdy (Dale Shearer) held one up I think,” Cook said.
“They got across our line half a dozen times but just couldn’t score and a penalty goal won it for us.
“We got the trust and faith out of that to think ‘we can do this and win the series’.”
While the 1995 Origin series gave Cook six of the best weeks of his life, he also holds all those weekends running around in bush competitions close to his heart.
“It certainly has given me a lot of joy – 37 seasons I played the game and I was going for 40,” he said.
“I stopped playing when I was 44 at Pittsworth.
“I dislocated and broke my ankle in three places in my last game and that was the end.
“I’m still tied up in footy – I call the local footy out here on the radio.
“I love it – rugby league is the greatest game of all.”
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