MARK ‘SPUDD’ CARROLL: Steve Mortimer is NSW Origin history and what I told Spencer Leniu on how to beat QLD

Mark Carroll
The Nightly
4 Min Read
The old and the new: Steve Mortimer after the famous 1985 series win and Blues debutant Spencer Leniu.
The old and the new: Steve Mortimer after the famous 1985 series win and Blues debutant Spencer Leniu. Credit: NRL/Getty Images

Nothing gets me crankier at this time of year than the old myth that Queensland has more passion than NSW.

That NSW doesn’t “get” State of Origin.

What a load of XXXX that is.

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Last week us Blues Old Boys were invited by coach Michael “Madge” Maguire to come and meet his new team.

The turnout was huge, and I personally couldn’t wait to shake the hand of every Blues player.

We had a couple of beers then Madge asked us to turn our attention to the big video screen.

The iconic voice of Ray Warren burst to life as we were suddenly watching a tribute to former Blues captain Steve Mortimer.

“Turvey” was the first man to lead NSW to a series victory, way back in 1985. Up until then Origin was dominated by Queensland and their crew of Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Chris Close, Gene Miles and co.

When the Blues claimed Game Two at the SCG to clinch their first series, Mortimer dropped to his knees and looked skywards with his arms raised.

The message was clear – the Blues had finally done it!

That powerful image was displayed proudly in the room that night, as the current and former Blues players watched on.

Then Maguire took to the stage and declared: “They might have bloody Wally Lewis …but we have Steve Mortimer!!!!”

The whole room erupted with cheers (and a few tears)!

Talk about goosebumps – I was covered in them.

Mortimer was in the room while all this was happening. He’s not in the greatest of health, Turvey, but I reckon he felt the love.

So that’s why I get mad when people question the passion of NSW.

Before I left that function, I made sure I spoke with the six Blues debutantes.

Well, it’s now five, because fullback Dylan Edwards had to pull out with a quad injury. He must be shattered the poor bloke.

James Tedesco comes back into the side and won’t he have a point to prove after originally being dropped by Madge. I reckon Teddy will have a blinder.

At the function I got to meet big, bad Spencer Leniu.

I reminded him of a game last year when he was playing for the Panthers and literally took the fight to Roosters enforcer Jared Waera-Hargreaves.

I told Spencer when he runs the ball on Wednesday night, I want him to visualise Jared’s face on every single one of those Queenslanders!

I love the way this bloke plays. He’s fearless and runs a million miles an hour with no thought of self-preservation.

His eyes bulge and his nostrils flare – that’s when you know he’s ready to rumble.

The debutants will be nervous between now and kick-off at Accor Stadium. If they’re not, then they’re not ready.

They just need to harness that nervous energy.

When I qualified for my first grand final in 1995 with Manly, I played the game before I even got to the Sydney Football Stadium.

Every night I’d be waking up in a lather of sweat, with pillows and sheets all over the place.

I was doing hit-ups in my sleep!

I couldn’t stop thinking about the grand final and a lot of my teammates were the same.

Surprise, surprise we got rolled 17-4 by the Bulldogs.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 28: Spencer Leniu of the Blues poses during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin media opportunity at NSWRL Centre of Excellence on May 28, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Mark Carroll told Spencer Leniu to show the same fire against Queensland as he has against his opponents playing NRL. Credit: Matt King/Getty Images

My other piece of advice to the new guys would be to stick to the processes that got you there in the first place.

Don’t change a thing.

During my career I would be dry retching before every game and I’d never put my jersey on until the very last minute. I’d walk around in shorts and boots and smash my chest in front of the mirror.

That was my procedure.

And lastly, if you see a chance - take it. Don’t hesitate and think “should I?”

Just do it.

This Blues team is picked on form and that’s why I feel very confident that they can win the game and the series.

Thirty-six years after he played his final game, Mortimer might just be the inspiration behind another famous Blues victory.


One thing I’d love to see banished from the NRL is players warming up out on the field before kick-off.

When I played, we would warm-up inside or on a field out the back.

The first time the fans would see us was when we blasted out the tunnel to the roars of the crowd.

These days the players all wander out there with a smile for a bit of a warm-up, chit-chatting with assistant coaches.

Why do they have to go on the field? I don’t want to see them until kick-off.

In my view, it takes away all the mystery and suspense for fans.

Modern stadiums have amazing dressing rooms with plenty of room for players to do their warm-up drills and the older suburban grounds have training fields out the back they can use.

And don’t get me started on the referees! It drives me mad seeing them out there in there in their shiny tracksuits stretching and touching their toes.

Get inside you fools!


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