If anyone thinks the Maroons shirt means more than the NSW Blues strip, just talk to Andrew Johns.
In the wake of the Maroons’ 22-12 series win at Suncorp Stadium in the home state decider, rugby league Immortal was a downcast figure on the Channel 9 panel after the game.
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When Paul Vautin asked Johns where it all went wrong for the Blues, Johns seemed fed up, furious in his response.
“Why? Well, you won the big moments,” he said.
“Now we have to listen to all the bulls**t from you (Queenslanders) over the next 12 months. It drives you crazy.
Later, when Johns left the panel, he was filmed with his head in his hands standing next to former New South Wales captain Paul Gallen, appearing to prefer to be anywhere else in the world .
A few days after the result, Johns spoke on the Wide World of Sports’ Immortal behavior and explained his words.
“It’s still burning, still broken,” Johns said of how the result felt even days later.
“What do they want me to go up there and talk vanilla?” Johns said.
“I probably didn’t express it well enough because I was so broken inside, but that’s how I felt. I feel broken inside. It means a lot to me.
After another defeat for the Blues as the side were favorites to win the original title after a 44-12 thrashing in Perth and against a Queensland without Cameron Munster, the Maroons took an upset victory in a game that Johns won. declared to be “one of the great original games” and a top five matchup of all time.
‘Does your jersey mean more than my jersey?’
However, another favoritism has reignited the age-old debate over whether the Maroons shirt means more to Queenslander than Sky Blue does to NSW.
If you ask Johns, however, there is no debate.
“All I wanted to do since I started playing football was one, play for the Knights, and two, represent my state,” Johns said.
“The Blues shirt means everything to me and I find it insulting and a kick in the gut when they talk about their shirt meaning more to them. It makes me so emotional.
“I would love to have them, all the half-backs who have played for Queensland. (Daly) Cherry-Evans. ‘Does your jersey mean more than my jersey?’. And I know what the answer is -” Nope “.
“I said in the night – it’s bulls**t, it’s all bulls**t.
“Where was that ‘It means more to them’ (story) in Perth in the second half when we put up 30 points? I can show clips of guys walking when they were tired for Queensland which is a sign that …does their jersey mean more to (them) when they walk and run and score?That’s a myth.
“For people to say that, it’s insulting to anyone who bled and got injured and did everything they could for the NSW jersey while playing.
“Usually it doesn’t come from players and ex-players. And look – the last few days I’ve been talking to some of the guys I used to play against, Gorden (Tallis) and Wendell (Sailor) and those guys.
“It doesn’t come from them; this is from outsiders who have no idea, who have never been on the Origin battlefield, who would never survive there. But they push this narrative which is total BS. It just drives me crazy.
It comes after NRL 360 host Paul Kent and The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield hit out at a perceived lack of passion from NSW players.
Despite appearing broken in scenes next to coach Brad Fittler, Blues halfback Nathan Cleary came under fire online after the game for a lack of emotion after the loss, when he said to Channel 9 “it sucks”.
“We have a guy who gets knocked on his door by Billy Slater who says, man, you play five eighths because Munster is out. He cries and says, “I won’t let Queensland down,” Kent said.
“The other number 6 in the other shirt can’t wait to play for Samoa so don’t tell me the passion is even.”
Blues half Jarome Luai and winger Brian To’o have reportedly signed up to play for Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the season.
Speaking later to former Blues hooker Benny Elias, who said past and present Blues stars slept in their shirts because they meant so much, Kent said it was not the same as Queensland.
“Queensland win games by going to every game and they do it over and over again,” he said.
“It’s because of the belief in the jersey that allows them to do it. It gives them whatever superpower it is to do it – and I don’t believe that exists in New South Wales. And NSW go into games too often as favorites and get pissed off.
“He would eat their throats to win”
But pointing the finger at his former teammates, Johns took umbrage at the comments.
“I can mention who I am close to. Ben Kennedy – he would eat their throats to win. Paul Harragon – the depths he used to go to head to Origin but then play Origin, what he would do to win. Danny Buderus, my big pal – the dark places I saw him go on the pitch and how busted he was, and (he would continue) to play. It’s an insult to all of them,” Johns said.
“It comes from people who have no idea. They have no idea. They think they know what it is, but they have no idea. No idea what it takes to first go out and win a jersey, but then to go out on the battlefield and win.
“If it meant more, why don’t they win all the series?
“Where was it in Townsville the other year NSW won by 50 (Game I of the 2021 series)?
“It just gets thrown away when it suits them. Again, it’s not from the players.
Johns also said he was directing no fury at his co-commentators at Vautin or Queensland assistant coach Cameron Smith with his “bulls**t” comments.
“And my BS wasn’t directed at Fatty or Cameron, it’s just the last three days, that’s all I heard,” Johns added.
“They didn’t talk about Queensland’s great kicking game or defensive scrimmage; it is about this narrative that it means more.
“We should talk about their game plan and the amazing kicking game in the second half. I thought they were the best team of the night, they deserved to win. And in the second half the way they defended, their kicking game was far superior, the opening kicks and the way they defended that 16-12 lead. It was heroic.
“But we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about something that doesn’t exist, it’s a myth. That’s why it pisses me off.
“I couldn’t articulate after the game because it’s hard to describe how it breaks me inside. And then constantly hearing this “it means more”, it’s so insulting.
“I hope it motivates the players, I know it drove me, drove me as a kid watching the King (Wally Lewis) do his business.
“They talk about that generation when Wally and all those passing boys used to watch NSW crush Queensland year after year.
“Well you know what, I grew up watching the King and it drove me crazy. Then I got an opportunity and I like to think I did my best for my condition and my shirt. But for people to say it meant more to the players I played against is just an insult to anyone who’s played with the shirt, it’s an insult to how hard they go and what it’s deep in here (pointing to his heart) I wish I could have articulated it better the other night.