State rivalry reaches new heights
DESPITE working on the Blues' side of the NSW-Queensland border, Sam Clifton is the only NSW supporter at Tweed's Amart All Sports.
And boy, does he cop it at State of Origin rugy league time.
His chief tormenter is workmate Wanda Halliday-Scott.
"Yeah Wanda won't let me forget the eight-year reign Queensland had, but we have the trophy now and hopefully we can keep it this year," Sam said.
The NSW losing streak had continued for so long that Sam had almost forgotten how to celebrate when the Blues finally posted a series victory last year.
"I wasn't used to it at all and didn't really know how to feel when we took it back last year, it had been that long," Sam said.
Wanda agreed the team rivalry got pretty fierce in their workplace.
"There is constant banter and sledging from staff and customers at this time of year and we sell an even bigger amount of Origin merchandise being so close to the border," she said.
Jerseys, shirts, hats, scarves in state colours are among the more popular items during the Origin period.
"Staff are permitted to wear their Maroon or Blue gear to work, which is always good," Wanda said.
Youth and an aging Queensland team are key to victory for the Blues, according to Sam, who is banking on one New South Welshman in particular to have a big game.
"Michael Jennings is probably the key, I think, but we have a big, fast and young side, so I reckon it will be a good game against the older boys in the Queensland team."
Tonight's match at ANZ stadium in Sydney shapes as one of the biggest in recent times.
A capacity crowd of 83,500 fans is expected to turn out and, not surprisingly, the stadium is predicted to be almost a sea of blue in support of NSW on home ground as they attempt to win back-to-back series for the first time in a decade.
The Sky Blues' last successful double came back in 2004/2005.
With two away games this year for both teams, with Melbourne hosting Game 2 for the first time in 18 years, a good start to the series will be more important than ever for NSW.