Top 10 Best & Worst Origin Debuts

Super Freak

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We have quite a few debutants playing tomorrow night, so I thought I would post up what's been rated the top 10 best and worst Origin debuts.

Best Debuts

1. Michael O'Connor - Game One, 1985 (New South Wales)

Former Wallaby Michael O'Connor won his initial NSW call-up for the 1985 series opener in his third season at St George. On a wet and muddy night at Lang Park, the brilliant centre raced in for the only two tries of the match and added five goals to hold a monopoly on the Blues' scoresheet in an emphatic 18-2 victory. His 18-point haul remained an Origin record for 15 years, and he went on to set the NSW marks for most appearances, tries and points, of which the latter two still stand, in a decorated representative career.

2. Brett Hodgson - Game One, 2002 (New South Wales)

Lightweight fullback Brett Hodgson racked up extraordinary numbers in his first Origin appearance, a stunning 32-4 series-opening victory for an underdog Blues side featuring eight debutants in 2002. The Parramatta custodian made an incredible five line breaks and 384 metres from 23 runs, including a bust to put Andrew Johns over for a first-half try, and a 90-metre run to score from a scrum win that completed the rout. Unfortunately for the courageous Hodgson, his six-match Origin career is predominantly remembered for the time he was rag-dolled by Gorden Tallis in the '02 decider and the wayward pass he threw in '06 that cost NSW the series.

3. Les Davidson - Game One, 1987 (New South Wales)

A 1986 Kangaroo, Les Davidson produced a man-of-the-match performance on debut in the following season's Origin series opener. The Souths enforcer made 32 tackles and 18 hit-ups and scored a barnstorming first-half try in the NSW's heart-stopping 20-16 success at Lang Park. He made just four further appearances for the Blues, but remains the only player - other than inaugural man-of-the-match Chris Close - to have been named best on ground on Origin debut.

4. Allan Langer - Game One, 1987 (Queensland)

Pint-sized halfback Allan Langer's maiden Origin call-up for game one of the '87 series was questioned in several quarters, including among some of his experienced Queensland teammates. But the Ipswich No.7 silenced the doubters with an inspirational display, quashing misgivings over his suspect defense with several ultra-committed scything efforts among 19 tackles; he also made a line break and was a constant threat in attack. Despite the Maroons' last-minute loss, Langer had arrived. He went on to become one of the contest's most iconic players in 34 appearances.

5. Peter Wallace - Game One, 2008 (New South Wales)

Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace became the sixth player to be selected in the NSW No.7 in the space of eight matches when he was picked to debut in the 2008 series opener. The Blues started as rank outsiders, but Wallace steered them to a convincing 18-10 boilover, having a hand in three of his side's four tries and dictating terms with a brilliant kicking game that prevented the star-studded Maroons from getting into the contest. Wallace, who made the last of his four Origin appearances in 2009, was desperately unlucky to miss out on man-of-the-match honours on debut.

6. Adam Mogg - Game Two, 2006 (Queensland)

One of the biggest selection bolters in Origin history, Adam Mogg, replaced Greg Inglis on the wing for game two of the 2006 series as injuries decimated Queensland's backline stocks. The relatively unknown Mogg began a charmed debut by barrelling NSW centre Mark Gasnier into touch in the lead-up to the Maroons' first try, and then scored two superb second-half tries - outfoxing Gasnier to dive over in the corner and complete his double - as his side kept the series alive with a memorable 30-6 thrashing. Mogg scored another spectacular try in Queensland's dramatic decider triumph to seal his place in Origin folklore.

7. Mark O'Meley - Game Two, 2001 (New South Wales)

Less than three weeks after his 20th birthday, aggressive Northern Eagles prop Mark O'Meley was called into the NSW side for the must-win game-two clash in 2001 after Queensland had steamrolled the Blues 34-16 in the series opener. The bald-headed tyro produced an explosive representative debut, making 19 hit-ups for a game-high 222 metres as NSW powered to a 26-8 win. The icing on O'Meley's dream introduction to Origin football was stepping past Shane Webcke, the game's No.1 front-rower, and charging into open territory before sending captain Brad Fittler away for the match-sealing try. O'Meley finished with 10 appearances for the Blues.

8. Mat Rogers - Game One, 1999 (Queensland)

Cronulla winger Mat Rogers made the most of a long-awaited opportunity at Origin level by scoring all of Queensland's points in a gripping 9-8 victory in the 1999 series opener. He landed four penalty goals from as many attempts - despite a first-half stint on the sideline with an injured knee - and was narrowly denied a diving try in the corner by the video referee before he snapped a 74th-minute fial goal to snatch a 1-0 series lead for the Maroons. The wiry flyer played four subsequent Origin matches before switching to Rugby Union.

9. John Doyle - Game One, 2001 (Queensland)

Cowboys hooker John Doyle was perhaps the least heralded of Queensland's 10 debutants for game one of the 2001 series, but he had a monumental impact in the stunning 36-16 upset. Selected in the No.9, Doyle started on the bench but ripped up the NSW defense after entering the fray in the second half. He made a brilliant break out of dummy-half and linked with Darren Lockyer before backing up the fullback to score the opening try of the second stanza. He was at it again four minutes later, throwing an audacious dummy to again slice through from acting half and set up clubmate John Buttigieg for a try. Doyle capped a dazzling attacking display by starting another long-range movement that led to Chris Walker's four-pointer. He featured in the '01 decider triumph but was dropped after the Maroons' heavy defeat in the following season's series opener.

10. Anthony Minichiello - Game One, 2003 (New South Wales)

Anthony Minichiello was just 11 games into his tenure as Roosters fullback when he was selected in the NSW No.1 jumper and chosen to debut in game one of the 2003 series. He made an immediate impact at the recently reopened Suncorp Stadium, combining twice with Andrew Johns to notch a first-half double, and his general play at the back was outstanding. Minichiello recorded 20 runs for 227 metres in the Blues' hard-fought 25-12 victory. His stellar representative career was interrupted by a horror run of injuries, but he nevertheless made 11 Origin appearances across nine seasons.

Worst Debuts

1. Justin Hodges - Game Two, 2002 (Queensland)

In a performance unrivalled among Origin shockers, Queensland winger Justin Hodges endured a horrific debut in the second game of the 2002 series when he twice attempted to pass in his own in-goal, both of which led to Blues tries. Hodges was immediately hooked by Wayne Bennett and dropped for the decider despite the Maroons' 26-18 win, but he went on to play 18 games over 12 seasons as one of their finest centres. Including scoring the match-winning try in game three of the 2013 series.

2. Phil Duke - Game Three, 1982 (New South Wales)

One of Origin's most infamous selections, Moree winger Phil Duke was a bolter for the 1982 decider. He scored a dubious try when he stepped out and fumbled the ball, but is most remembered for his in-goal mix-up with fullback Phil Sigsworth that allowed Wally Lewis to fall on the ball and score the decisive try. Duke never again played Origin and only tried his hand in the premiership five seasons later with Wests.

3. Nathan Merritt - Game Two, 2013 (New South Wales)

A prolific try-scorer with South Sydney, Nathan Merritt received a long-awaited NSW call-up at the age of 30 for the second game of the 2013 series. He played on the opposite side to that on which he would traditionally play, but made two awful defensive reads that led to two Darius Boyd tries, and was out-jumped by Greg Inglis for another Maroons try. Merritt was overlooked for the returning Jarryd Hayne in the decider.

4. David Williams - Game Two, 2009 (New South Wales)

Popular Manly winger David 'Wolfman' Williams endured a torrid Origin debut in the second game of the 2009 series. He scored a powerhouse try but made the madcap decision to kick on the first tackle with a desperate NSW in good field position, and was beaten twice by Willie Tonga in the 24-14 loss. Williams survived the axe for game three but has not played for NSW since.

5. Todd Carney - Game One, 2012 (New South Wales)

Following a fabled redemption story when he returned to the NRL and won a Dally M Medal and a NSW jersey after being thrown out of the League, Todd Carney's upward ascension did not continue in his first Origin outing. He had a miserable debut in which he made three key handling errors, missed a simple penalty shot and ran the ball just four times in the 18-10 loss. The five-eighth saw out the rest of the series but was replaced by James Maloney in 2013.

6. Steve Turner - Game Two, 2008 (New South Wales)

A favourite of NSW coach Craig Bellamy, reliable Melbourne winger Steve Turner replaced the suspended Jarryd Hayne in the second game of the 2008 series. The Blues were smoked 30-0 and Turner had an unhappy defensive night, with Greg Inglis laying a massive fend on him and opposite Darius Boyd scoring a double. Turner was dropped and never again turned out for the Blues.

7. Jamie Buhrer - Game One, 2012 (New South Wales)

The most left field of left-field selections, Jamie Buhrer was an unexpected bench choice by Ricky Stuart for the opening game of the 2012 series. The utility played just seven uninspiring minutes of the 18-10 loss in Melbourne before he was replaced by Manly clubmate Anthony Watmough for the second encounter.

8. Mark Geyer - Game Three, 1989 (New South Wales)

Firebrand second-rower Mark Geyer debuted in the dead-rubber third game of the 1989 series and had a less than auspicious first game. In a 36-16 hammering, coach Jack Gibson hooked Geyer after 50 minutes. He was not selected in 1990 but famously made a lasting impact on the '91 series when he feuded violently with the Queensland side and was suspended for five matches.

9. John Hopoate - Game Two, 1995 (New South Wales)

Controversial winger John Hopoate got the call-up for his Origin debut in the second game of the 1995 series but endured an unhappy game. His lasting legacy from the match was his involvement in an all-in brawl, where he squared off with Manly teammate Danny Moore. Hopoate made a host of errors before being dropped for the third game and never played Origin again.

10. Steve Menzies - Game One, 1995 (New South Wales)

Manly legend Steve Menzies was widely criticised after his State of Origin debut in 1995. He topped the NSW tackle count in the 2-0 loss in the series opener, but the prolific try-scorer's failure to make an impact with the ball in hand contributed to the Blues' limp attack. He was dropped to the bench for the second game, but went on to play 20 Origins for NSW.
 
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Broncoman

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Don't get why Buhrer would be seen as the worst. He was only on for a few minutes. Not long enough to do anything.

Eric Grothe snr should be one of the best. He was formidable in the 1981 game, running over the Maroons at will. Scoring a 90 meter try and coming up with that amazing tackle on Scott (I think), only for old Chop to come along and punch him in the head.
 

Broncoman

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Oh and Phil Duke wasn't that bad in his one game. He made some good runs and did very well to score the only NSW try. He is just remembered for that incident with Singsworth. Tony Melrose who was on his wing in Game 2 that year was far worse then Duke was.
 

Super Freak

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Wasn't the 1981 game just a glorified trial match?

So I guess it doesn't really count.

I was under the impression that State of Origin wasn't official until 1982, which would rule out performances in the 1980 and 1981 games.
 
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Big Pete

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Wasn't the 1981 game just a glorified trial match?

So I guess it doesn't really count.

I was under the impression that State of Origin wasn't official until 1982, which would rule out performances in the 1980 and 1981 games.
What sort of NSW diatribe is this?

They all count. I can understand leaving the first ever Origin off since everybody was debuting...but it counts.

Even Game 4 87 technically counts, even though realistically it was an exhibition game that had no bearing on the series.

Good call Bman. May need to get your eyes checked though, big difference between open and closed fists my friend.
 

Broncoman

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I haven't seen that Close-Grothe moment for years so it's a honest mistake on my part.

I just watched Game 1 2002 and Hodgson was brilliant. He was not just making line breaks, he was cool under the high ball and his support play was great as well setting up Johns' try after Bedsy passed short to him. The 90 meter try was just the icing of it. He was very unlucky not to get MOM. I extremely hate that some people just know Brett Hodgson because of Gordie's tackle and the pass that Lockyer picked up. Hodgson was a great fullback for the Magpies and Tigers and did very well in England as well. One of the forgotten great fullbacks of recent times. Loved watching Hodgson.

Is 384 running meters a record in Origin football? I've never seen anyone make that many in 1 game ever. Apart from Uate V Souths in round 26 2011.
 
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Sproj

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Yeah Hodgson was a very good fullback indeed, a poor man's Lockyer but that is no bad statement in any way. Fuhrer Buhrer should definitely be up there, 7 minutes is 7 minutes more than anyone other than him and for some reason the selectors ever thought he should have got. He certainly loved himself though. But even so, 7 minutes of nothing is 7 minutes of nothing. I wonder where Walker will rank after tonight, my money is on the worst list but who knows, there are some admirably bad debuts he has to match there.
 

Big Pete

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Good list Freaky.

Hodgson - Not only was it a great debut, it was also the best performance I've seen from a fullback in Origin. The Blues based their attack on his support play, so whenever they could move the ball around, Brett would take full advantage. The giant Maroons pack had no answers for it that evening, going down 32-4.

Apart of the reason why Brett wasn't picked for 2001 is due to his style of play. The NSW selectors didn't think he would fit in with the Fittler/Kimmorley halves combination so they went with the safe but versatile Mark Hughes. The spot would have gone to the ever-exciting David Peachey, but a cruel injury on the eve of Origin ruled him out for the first two games. By the time he returned, Hughes had taken part in a dominant 26-8 victory in Game II.

Wallace - Much like his selection, is a surprise inclusion on this list. Life after Andrew Johns wasn't kind to the Blues. Craig Gower's career trailed off after some poor performances on and off the field. Nobody trusted Kimmorley after Origin I 2005 and Barrett retired from rep football in 2006 before flying the coop to the ESL. It wouldn't be until 2009 he would unretire and smash Inglis in the head with one of the biggest cheap shots in the modern game. How wasn't he sent from the field again? Never the less NSW were going to go with another Newcastle half in Gidley before he went down with injury. With little option, the selectors had to go on form, which saw Todd Carney/Brett Finch take on Braith Anasta/Mitch Pearce for the spot. In the end, the selectors agreed on neither, instead going with Wallace who made a decent cameo for City off the bench. Wal was good on debut, but Top 5 best debuts of all-time? Only one spot below Alfie? Ehhh, couldn't they give it to diabetese man instead? Origin II 2007, where Rabs wouldn't let that factoid go. But hey, Brett played well and his Origin career showed plenty of promise before injuries sidelined him.

Honorable Mentions
Mark Gasnier - Game III 2004
Johnathan Thurston - Game I 2005
Scott Prince - Game I 2004
Luke Bailey - Game I 2002
Craig Wing - Game I 2003
Karmichael Hunt - Game II 2006
 
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Sproj

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I don't know if it rates amongst the best debuts but Cam Smith's debut certainly was a bright spot in a dire 2005 series and clearly showed what he was going to become!
 

Mr Fourex

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Wallace - Much like his selection, is a surprise inclusion on this list. Life after Andrew Johns wasn't kind to the Blues. Craig Gower's career trailed off after some poor performances on and off the field. Nobody trusted Kimmorley after Origin I 2005 and Barrett retired from rep football in 2006 before flying the coop to the ESL. It wouldn't be until 2009 he would unretire and smash Inglis in the head with one of the biggest cheap shots in the modern game. How wasn't he sent from the field again? Never the less NSW were going to go with another Newcastle half in Gidley before he went down with injury. With little option, the selectors had to go on form, which saw Todd Carney/Brett Finch take on Braith Anasta/Mitch Pearce for the spot. In the end, the selectors agreed on neither, instead going with Wallace
Peter Wallace - State of Origin's Steven Bradbury award winner.
 

Dash

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Can we add Dylan Walker to the top 10 worst debuts list?

Edit: seems there's a whole thread dedicated to this statement. My bad.
 
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Broncoman

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They were talking about the top 10 debuts in the match program

This is the list they came up with

10 - Mat Rogers, Game 1 1999
9 - John Doyle, game 1 2001
8 - Anthony Minichiello, game 1 2003
7 - Mark O'Meley, game 2 2001
6 - Adam Mogg, game 2 2006
5 - Peter Wallace, game 1 2008
4 - Les Davidson, game 1 1987
3 - Allan Langer, game 1 1987
2 - Brett Hodgson, game 1 2002
1 - Michael O'Connor, game 1 1985
 

Big Pete

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They were talking about the top 10 debuts in the match program
It may look nearly identical because the article was penned by Will Evans, the author of the NRL Lists book.

Aside from a couple of switches, the only difference between the two are the descriptions.

Speaking of the Match Program, I find myself enjoying Lovelock's articles. He's a big 60s/70s Rugby League tragic, so his yarns are usually personable and enlightening.

What did you make of his Pre-Origin 17? The best players from the 60s/70s who didn't play Origin and haven't been selected as an Immortal.

Here's the team-list for others, please note the retro numbering.

1. Ken Thornett (Parramatta)
2. Kevin Yow Yeh (Balmain)
3. Peter Dimond (Wests)
4. Johnny Greaves (Canterbury)
5. Ken Irvine (Norths)
6. Ian Martin (Manly)
7. Arthur Simmons (c) (Wests)
8. Barry Reilly (Eels)
9. Terry Randall (Manly)
10. Ron Coote (Souths/Easts)
11. John O'Neil (Souths)
12. Noel Kelly (Wests)
13. Rex Mossop (Manly)

14. Jimmy Lisle (Souths)
15. Bob McCarthy (Souths)
16. Jack Gibson (Wests)
17. Kevin Ryan (St George)

Lisle is an interesting inclusion. Did you know he was selected for the Kangaroos after only 3 first grade games? You do now.
 

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