Latrell Mitchell and Brad Fittler returned to the scene of their greatest Origin disappointments to achieve near perfect redemptions as the Blues laid the foundations for a NSW dynasty to rival the great Queensland sides that dominated for a decade.
Just two years after being dumped from the NSW side following an 18-14 loss in the opening match of the 2019 series at Suncorp Stadium, Mitchell inspired the Blues to a 26-0 thumping of Queensland at the same venue to regain the Origin Shield.
It was an emphatic performance that put paid to the bitterness the recently turned 24-year-old felt after his 2019 axing and set NSW on course for their first series 'Blue rinse' since 2000 and just the fourth since the Origin concept began 40 years ago.
For Fittler, who finished the night with his suit soaked after Blues players tipped a bucket of Gatorade over him, the record triumph erased the frustration of last year’s 20-14 series deciding loss in Brisbane.
Fittler had blamed himself for that defeat after failing to pick a back on the bench who could have covered for the loss of injured captain James Tedesco early in the match – and Mitchell felt like he had worn the blame for the 2019 series opening defeat.
However, after being overlooked until the opening game of this year’s series in Townsville, Mitchell is back where he belongs. The South Sydney superstar dominated the first half as the Blues romped to an 18-0 lead that Queensland never looked like overturning.
"Obviously it wasn't smooth sailing there for a long time because his last game here wasn't a great one and we sort of parted ways for a while but he has been absolutely fantastic," Fittler said of Mitchell.
"When we get to see him play on this stage I think everyone appreciates that so we definitely want to see it more."
Impressively, Mitchell dominated in defence as well as attack. He changed the early momentum of the match with a one-on-one strip of Queensland winger Kyle Feldt near the Maroons line which led to a 12th minute try by Josh Addo-Carr.
Led by veteran prop Josh Papalii, who missed Queensland’s series opening 50-6 loss due to suspension, the Maroons came out firing and were being cheered on by the most one-sided home crowd in Origin history because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
If Addo-Carr’s try took the sting out of the Maroons defence and quietened the crowd, they were noticeably stunned when Mitchell intercepted a pass from Queensland fullback Valentine Holmes and sprinted 90 metres to score in the 27th minute.
Mitchell intercepts a pass and goes 85m to score
In between the tries, Mitchell man-handled Holmes to prevent him finding the ground just inside the field of play and pushing him into the in-goal area to force a repeat set that enabled the Blues to maintain the pressure on a visibly tiring Maroons outfit.
"He is so important because he is one of the best players in the competition and when you watch tonight his biggest plays were without the ball," Fittler told Channel Nine.
"He came up with an intercept, he pushed Val Holmes over the in-goal line and he came up with a couple of crucial tackles as well, so that just shows he can do it both with and without the ball."
Mitchell, who wondered if he would play Origin again and wasn't sure he wanted to after his axing two years ago, praised the environment in the NSW camp.
"In the first game and leading into this game, Freddy has got us all combining and bonding really well," Mitchell said. "The camps have been set up really awesome.
"I bought into it from the get-go and I can't thank the boys enough - the coaching staff and obviously the playing group. It's unbelievable."
Trailing 18-0 at halftime after Tedesco combined with halfback Nathan Cleary, right centre Tom Trbojevic and Addo-Carr for a 32nd minute try, Queensland had no answers in the second term and NSW are now poised to record the most dominant series win in Origin history.
The venue for Origin III is yet to be confirmed but it won’t matter to the Blues as they have now created history by achieving what the 1982 NSW team was unable to do - winning the first two matches of the series on Queensland soil.
It was the first time a Maroons team had been held scoreless at Suncorp Stadium and the inaugural Origin win in Brisbane for every member of the NSW squad except Tedesco, who played in the 2017 series opening victory.
The Maroons won the remaining two matches of that series to continue a domination that began in 2006 and was only interrupted when NSW triumphed in 2014 but NSW may now be on the verge of their own golden era.
"A lot of things have to work in your favour but the thing I like about it is that they scored 50 in the first game and they looked fantastic, scored some brilliant tries and played a totally different brand of footy than we have seen before," Fittler said.
"Then tonight they defended their line to zero, which hasn't been done before."