Mark ‘Spudd’ Carroll: The feral bus ride the NSW Blues must take before State of Origin 3

Mark ‘Spudd’ Carroll
The Nightly
Queensland fans line Caxton St.
Queensland fans line Caxton St. Credit: Jason O'Brien/Getty Images

Today I begin my campaign to bring back one of State of Origin’s great traditions.

I’m talking about the Blues team bus driving down feral Caxton Street on the way to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

I know we’re still a couple of weeks away from the Origin decider, but – pardon the pun – I want to get the wheels in motion early.

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I reckon it can help the Blues win Origin III – I’ll explain how a bit later.

Back in the early days of Origin, both teams would drive down the infamous Brisbane strip to very different receptions.

For those who haven’t been to Caxton St in Paddington, it’s wall-to-wall with pubs and restaurants.

On game day the fans get in there nice and early and prepare themselves for the night ahead with plenty of amber fluid.

The Queensland team bus would always be treated like the pope mobile as it cruised through. Everyone kept a respectful distance and would bow in worship.

When the Blues bus came through five minutes later, it was like a different group of people had been dropped in.

Suddenly cheers turned to jeers and expletives filled the air as their beady eyes searched for NSW players on the other side of the window.

In 1997 when I was playing for the Blues, the late Tommy Raudonikis was our coach.

Tommy feared no one, especially Queenslanders.

Halfway down Caxton Street on the way to game one of the series, he demanded the driver stop the the bus.

It seemed like pure madness, Tommy had lost the plot!

In his famous raspy voice Tommy instructed all the players to come to the left side of the bus to see what State of Origin passion looks like.

Thank God the window next to me had extra reinforcement, because next thing I knew a full can of XXXX smashed into the glass!

I had heard of the hostility, but that was the first time I really experienced it.

The hatred, the spitting, the frothing at the mouth.

After that introduction, nothing could shock me.

Bring it on.

I was now ready for anything that came my way, including cans of beer.

The intimidation factor was gone. I had soaked up the hate and instead of taking it personally, I used it as motivation for the game.

We won the match 8-6 and eventually the series.

The same thing happened back in 1985.

Legendary Blues captain Steve Mortimer demanded his players look out the window as the bus drove down Caxton St.

That NSW team got the same reception we did, then went on to win 18-2 at the old Lang Park. That night set up the Blues’ first-ever series victory.

Eventually, though, the local police reckoned the bus trip was getting too hairy.

They reckoned there was even a chance the Blues bus might get tipped over by the rabid mob.

So, the whole thing was banned – and I reckon it’s hurt NSW ever since.

We haven’t won a decider up there in almost 20 years.

In fact, we’ve had some really impressive wins in Origin II then gone to Suncorp for the decider and been belted.

I reckon that’s because some players just aren’t ready for the shock factor. They get intimidated by the cauldron-atmosphere when they run onto the ground.

Michael Maguire and Blues management should be on the phone right now insisting they be allowed to bring back the Caxton St bus trip.

Put up more barricades and make the locals drink out of plastic cups instead of cans. That should cover the security concerns.

A little trip down Caxton, waving to our old mates in maroon, might just be enough to get the boys in blue a win.

AND DON’T GET ME STARTED

After 90,000 fans watched the Blues thrash the Maroons at the MCG, I heard the AFL chief executive talking about ‘bringing back’ State of Origin.

I was stunned.

Do you mean Aussie Rules ‘had’ State of Origin before rugby league and then dumped it?

Are they crazy?

I’ll admit I’m not big on my AFL history, so I was amazed to learn this.

Origin is the pinnacle in rugby league. The crowd numbers are huge and the TV ratings go through the roof every year.

I can’t understand why it wouldn’t work in AFL as well.

Melbourne is called the sports capital of the world, so surely, you’d get a decent crowd to watch Victoria take on South Australia or something like that. Melburnians would attend the opening of an envelope.

The players should be given the chance earn higher honours, like the other codes. Football, Rugby Union and Rugby League all have World Cups.

It must have killed the AFL heavyweights to see all of us leaguies take over their beloved MCG last week.

It was a great occasion for our game and the Blues did it justice by putting on a performance that will keep the fans coming back.

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