If anyone thinks that the Maroons jersey means more than the NSW Blues strip, just talk to Andrew Johns.
In the wake of the Maroons series winning 22-12 victory at Suncorp Stadium in the State of Origin decider, the rugby league Immortal was a downcast figure on the Channel 9 panel after the game.
Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
When Paul Vautin asked Johns where it all went wrong for the Blues, Johns appeared to have had enough, fuming 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) in the next 12 months. It drives you mad.”
Later, when Johns had left the panel, he was caught on camera with his head in his hands standing near former NSW captain Paul Gallen, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world.
Days on from the result, Johns spoke on the Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour and explained his comments.
“It’s still burning, still broken,” Johns said of how the result felt even days on.
“What do they want me to just get on there and talk vanilla?” Johns said.
“I probably didn’t articulate it well enough because I was so broken inside but that’s how I felt. I feel broken inside. It means that much to me.”
After yet another Blues loss when the side was favourite to take out the Origin title following a 44-12 thrashing in Perth and against a Cameron Munster-less Queensland, the Maroons pulled off the upset victory in a match Johns said was “one of the great games of Origin” and an all-time top five clash.
‘Does your jersey mean more than my jersey?’
However, another from favouritism has reignited the age old debate over whether the Maroons jersey means more to Queenslander than the Sky Blue does to NSW.
If you ask Johns, however, there is no debate.
“All I’ve wanted to do since I started playing footy was one, play for the Knights, and two, represent my state,” Johns said.
“The Blues jersey means everything to me and I find it insulting and a kick in the guts when they talk about their jersey meaning more to them. It gets me so emotional.
“I’d love to get ‘em, all the halfbacks who have played for Queensland. (Daly) Cherry-Evans. ‘Does your jersey mean more than my jersey?’. And I know what the answer is – ‘no’.
“I said on the night — it’s bulls**t, it’s all bulls**t.
“Where was this ‘It means more to them’ (narrative) in Perth in the second half when we put on 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’re walking and they’re running past and scoring? It’s a myth.
“For people to say it, it is insulting to anyone who has bled and got injured and done everything they can for the NSW jersey when they’re playing.
“Usually it doesn’t come from the players and the ex-players. And look — the last couple of days I’ve spoken to some of the guys I used to play against, Gorden (Tallis) and Wendell (Sailor) and these guys.
“It doesn’t come from them; it comes from people outside who have no idea, have never been on the battlefield of Origin, would never survive out there. But they push this narrative which is total BS. It just drives me mad.”
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 looking shattered in scenes next to coach Brad Fittler, Blues halfback Nathan Cleary was slammed online after the game for a lack of emotion after the loss, when he told Channel 9 “it sucks”.
“We have got a bloke who gets knocked on his door by Billy Slater who says, mate you are playing five-eighth because Munster is out. He tears up and he says, ‘I won’t let Queensland down’,” Kent said.
“The other No. 6 in the other jersey can’t wait to play for Samoa, so don’t tell me the passion is equal.”
Blues half Jarome Luai and winger Brian To’o have reportedly committed to playing for Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the season.
Speaking later to former Blues hooker Benny Elias, who said the Blues stars past and present sleep in their jerseys because they mean so much, Kent said it wasn’t the same as Queensland.
“Queensland win games by turning up on every play and they just do that over and over again,” he said.
“That’s because of the belief in the jersey that allows them to do that. It gives them the superpower, whatever it is, to do that — and I don’t believe that exists in NSW. And NSW too often go into games as favourites and get upset.”
‘He would eat their throat to win’
But pointing to his former teammates, Johns took umbrage at the comments.
“I can mention who I’m close to. Ben Kennedy — he would eat their throat to win. Paul Harragon — the depths he used to take himself leading into Origin but then playing Origin, what he would do to win. Danny Buderus, my great mate — the dark places I saw him go on the field and how busted he was, and (he’d) just keep playing. It’s an insult to them all,” Johns said.
“It just comes from people that 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 get out there, firstly, and earn a jersey, but then to get out there on the battlefield and win.
“If it meant more, why don’t they win every series?
“Where was it in Townsville the other year when NSW won by 50 (game I of the 2021 series)?
“It just gets tossed up when it suits them. Once again, it doesn’t come from the players.”
Johns also said he wasn’t directing any fury at his co-commentators in 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’ve heard,” Johns added.
“They didn’t talk about the great kicking game or the defensive scramble of Queensland; it’s all about this narrative that it means more.
“We should be talking about their game plan and the incredible kicking game in the second half. I thought they were the better team on the night, they deserved to win. And in the second half, the way they defended, their kicking game was far superior, the early 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, that’s a myth. That’s why it p**ses me off.
“I couldn’t articulate after the game because it’s hard to describe how it breaks me inside. And then to constantly hear this ‘it means more’, it’s just so insulting.
“Hopefully it drives the players, I know it used to drive me, used to drive me when as a kid watching the King (Wally Lewis) doing his stuff.
“They talk about that generation when Wally and all those boys coming through used to watch NSW smash Queensland year after year.
“Well you know what, I grew up watching the King and it used to drive me crazy. Then I got an opportunity, and I like to think I did my best for my state and my jersey. But for people to say it meant more to the players I played against is just an insult on anyone who’s played in the jersey, it’s an insult on how hard they go and what’s deep inside here (pointing to his heart). I wish I could have articulated it better the other night.”