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The making of a Maroons legend

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Carrigan changed the game for Queensland as the Maroons overcame a nervous start to clinch a 16-10 Origin I victory at Accor Stadium.It was Queensland’s first win in Sydney since 2017 and has given the Maroons a magnificent opportunity to win back the shield with games in Perth (June 26) and Brisbane (July 13) to come.And while it was a vintage Maroons effort in Billy Slater’s first game as coach, Carrigan was the man that kicked Queensland into gear and was superbly supported by debutant Reuben Cotter and bench prop Lindsay Collins.The Brisbane Broncos forward made his presence known as soon as he entered the action from the interchange, smashing Blues centre Jack Wighton with a ringing tackle.A debatable selection ahead of the experienced Jai Arrow, Carrigan crashed through the Blues’ defence with his first carry and made inroads every time he touched the ball.At halftime he had the most runs (10) and metres (85) of any Queensland player and he only entered the game after starting prop Josh Papalii was given a rest at the 15-minute mark.Carrigan, 24, didn’t come off the field for the remainder of the game, finishing with a team high 18 runs for 145m to go with 25 tackles.“I’m wrecked, it’s everything you think of,” Carrigan said.“We had to dig deep. I kept looking at Reuben Cotter playing 80 minutes in the middle and he kept turning up.“It’s a dream come true. Billy was talking to us all week about our first involvement and that (Wighton tackle) was my first chance.“On the back of little things, big things can come in Origin.”Carrigan’s comeback from a knee reconstruction last year – which ended his 2021 season after eight games – has been nothing short of remarkable.While most players take months, if not an entire season, to find their feet again, Carrigan has emerged a markedly better player.Realising he needed to add dimensions to his game, Carrigan worked on his deficiencies while on the comeback trail from his injury.He wanted to become a better ballplayer and off-loader. He acknowledged his carries could be stronger and improved.Carrigan was rewarded for his efforts on rugby league’s biggest stage Wednesday night as Queensland’s next generation of forwards emerged.“Patrick Carrigan’s been the best player on the field,” Immortal Andrew Johns said in commentary.Fellow bench prop Collins was sensational in his fourth Origin.An understated player, Collins finished with 105m and 21 tackles. He took the hard carries others didn’t want to.Then there was Cotter.With his flowing mullet and moustache, Cotter punched out 80 minutes on debut and racked up a game-high 49 tackles to go with 13 runs for 95m.Starting prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (15 runs, 107m, 34 tackles) was also tireless as Queensland’s men in the middle upstaged the likes of Payne Haas, Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.It was the forwards’ dominance that allowed Maroons maestros Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster to slice and dice the Blues.After being reduced to 15-men at one point, the Maroons ran out of gas in the dying stages and hung on for dear life to record a memorable Origin victory.The series is now theirs to lose.DCE SAYS SLATER WAS A GAMECHANGERQueensland skipper Cherry-Evans said the devastation of last year’s horror series has been emphatically swept away in the wake of the Maroons’ epic ambush of the Blues in Origin I.Rookie coach Billy Slater has had an instant impact on the Maroons, transferring his competitive fire as a player to the squad of Queensland heroes who pulled off a brilliant 16-10 defeat of NSW at Accor Stadium.Cherry-Evans presided over the disaster of the 2021 campaign, but he produced a captain’s knock in the 2022 series opener, with his solo try leading a super Queensland fightback to draw first blood.“I am extremely proud,” he said.“Origin is so hard to win, they are getting tougher and tougher and to get this win on NSW soil is special.“There was just a better attitude to apply ourselves. It’s hard to compare series but it was good to put last year behind us and we had a group here who was prepared to do whatever it took tonight.“We built a connection during the week and when we looked at each other out there, no-one second guessed themselves.”Cherry-Evans lauded the coaching ability of Slater, who appears to have injected a harder edge to the Maroons.“The message is to put the jersey before yourself and that’s what this group is about,” Cherry-Evans said.“It’s hard not to respect and be in awe of Billy Slater when you look at his playing record. Then he has assistants like Cam Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Josh Hannay who have been brilliant.“There’s a lot of reasons why Billy can be a good coach. He makes you feel like he cares about you and he wants you to do Queensland proud. He doesn’t care who gets the wraps. He just wants us to play for the jumper.“We have improvement in us and we can get better defensively.”The Maroons are set to be without winger Xavier Coates (ankle) for Game Two on June 26, with Cowboys duo Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi in the mix for a call-up for the return bout in Perth.



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