It was billed as the start of a new era in State of Origin.
And while Queensland showed signs of life after the Big Three, the Maroons’ days of dominance may be numbered after a rookie NSW claimed the series opener 22-12 at the MCG.
The Baby Blues – boasting 11 rookies – came of age against a Maroons side without retired greats, ex-skipper Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, in front of 87,122 fans.
NSW were the greenest Origin side in 37 years after unveiling an unprecedented list of debutants under rookie coach Brad Fittler.
But what they lacked in experience they made up with their much vaunted backline firepower led by a man of the match performance by fullback James Tedesco who scored the opening try.
It capped a horror week for the rebuilding Maroons.
The signs were ominous for Queensland after a chaotic lead-up, losing veteran fullback Billy Slater (hamstring) and sweating until the last minute for the availability of winger Dane Gagai (finger).
They were already without 151 Origin games’ worth of experience.
And their luck didn’t change on Wednesday as the most inexperienced Maroons side in more than a decade could not stop NSW registering Origin win No.50 – albeit six years after Queensland had notched the same landmark.
The Blues – boasting just 39 games of Origin experience – will hope they have started a new Origin era after the Maroons claimed 11 of the last 12 series.
New skipper Greg Inglis did his best to step up in the Big Three’s absence, laying on some inspirational tackles.
And at first it seemed to work.
Inglis’ 27th minute hit on Tom Trbojevic gave the Maroons a lift before winger Valentine Holmes scored an 85m intercept try a minute later to cut the deficit to 8-6 at halftime.
And Queensland threatened to pull off another unlikely win when they led 12-8 after Gagai scored in the 43rd minute.
But there was no denying the Blues who finally lived up to bookies’ favouritism as they ran in three second half tries through Latrell Mitchell (48th), Tom Trbojevic (50th) and Josh Addo-Carr (70th).
It could have been worse – centre Mitchell and wing sensation Addo-Carr were denied tries.
Queensland must regroup before game two on June 24 in Sydney.