1988 State of Origin series

The 1988 State of Origin series was the seventh annual three-game series between the New South Wales and Queensland representative rugby league football teams to be contested entirely under 'state of origin' selection rules. Queensland enjoyed their first ever 3–0 series whitewash, mirroring a feat New South Wales had first achieved two years earlier. The series produced an ugly and enduring Origin image when in Game II the parochial Queensland crowd showered the Lang Park playing arena with beer cans in protest at the sin-binning of their captain Wally Lewis.

1988 State of Origin series
Won byQueensland colours.svg Queensland (5th series title)
Series margin3-0
Points scored126
Attendance75,168 (ave. 25,056 per match)
Top points scorer(s)Queensland colours.svgGary Belcher (28 points)
Top try scorer(s)Queensland colours.svgAllan Langer (4 tries)

New South Wales had a new home for Origin football in 1988. The AU$68 million, 40,000 capacity all-seat Sydney Football Stadium, a rectangular stadium more suited to rugby league than the round Sydney Cricket Ground, had been built in 1987 and opened in time for the 1988 NSWRL season. The SFS was described in its early days as a white elephant and lacking in the character and history of its predecessor, the SCG. Queensland players described playing at the SFS in 1988 as like playing on neutral ground.

Game IEdit

Coming into the 1988 opener, Queensland had not yet experienced an Origin match without Wally Lewis. Supporters were stunned when he was ruled out of game I with a shoulder injury. He had captained the Maroons on 20 occasions (out of 21 appearances) and won eight man-of-the-match awards, establishing himself as an Origin great. The selectors' answer to his absence was Peter Jackson the Canberra Raiders' resident comic who prided himself on wisecracks and high jinks. However Jackson had honed his organisational and kicking skills at Canberra and was ready to fill Lewis' role. Captaining the Maroons for the first time was Manly-Warringah's 1987 Premiership winning captain Paul Vautin.

After 42,048 fans had attended the only Origin game in Sydney at the SCG in 1987, the Sydney fans voted with their feet at the new SFS when only 26,441 attended Game 1. The low crowd number was largely due to the NSWRL charging $34 per seat as pointed out by Channel 9 match commentator Darrell Eastlake. His fellow Ch.9 commentator, Supercoach Jack Gibson replied to his comments that with an hours wait fans could watch the game at home on television for free rather than pay the high ticket price.

Tuesday, May 17, 1988
  Queensland 26–18   New South Wales
(10 - 1 t, 2 g) Gary Belcher
(4 - 1 t) Peter Jackson
(4 - 1 t) Alan McIndoe
(8 - 2 t) Allan Langer
(Report) Michael O'Connor (10 - 1 t, 3 g)
Andrew Ettingshausen (4 - 1 t)
Mark McGaw (4 - 1 t)
Sydney Football Stadium
Attendance: 26,441
Referee: Barry Gomersall
Man of the Match: Allan Langer

With Queensland missing their captain and the world's best footballer Wally Lewis, New South Wales had expected to dominate in the encounter but were flat from the outset. In the first-ever Origin game held at the newly built Sydney Football Stadium and in front of a less than capacity crowd (the seats at the in-goal ends of the stadium were virtually empty), the Maroons seized upon what Vautin termed the "neutral atmosphere".

New five-eighth Jackson played well and fullback Gary Belcher provided support with general play kicking while pint-sized Allan Langer provided the attacking thrust. Jackson was a natural tackler and together with Paul Vautin led with words of inspiration. For the Blues, both Peter Sterling and Cliff Lyons tried hard but unlike Langer and Jackson had very little support from the Blues forwards.

Langer scampered across the line twice to give Queensland a 12-6 lead at half-time and after the break the procession of Queensland tries continued. Jackson, Belcher and Origin debutant Alan McIndoe all scored (despite television replays showing that McIndoe didn't ground the ball and had actually knocked-on) to give the Maroons an unassailable 26-6 lead before two late tries to Andrew Ettingshausen and Mark McGaw earned New South Wales some respectability on the scoreboard. Arguably the best of the Blues on the night was their longest serving outside back, dual-international Michael O'Connor who looked dangerous whenever he touched the ball, while Ettingshausen got through a mountain of work trying to get NSW out from being pinned deep in their own half.

Game IIEdit

Tuesday, May 31, 1988
  Queensland 16–6   New South Wales
(4 - 1 t) Sam Backo
(4 - 1 t) Allan Langer
(8 - 4 g) Gary Belcher
(Report) Michael O'Connor (6 - 1t, 1 g)
Lang Park, Brisbane
Attendance: 31,817
Referee: Mick Stone
Man of the Match: Sam Backo

New South Wales played with passion, looked the better side in game II and were leading 6-4 with 18 minutes to go. Then Wally Lewis was sentenced to 5 minutes in the sin-bin by referee Mick Stone for dissent after a scuffle between Phil Daley and Greg Conescu developed into an all-in brawl. The parochial Queensland crowd was outraged and with their hero Lewis in the sheds the ground was showered with beer cans amid chants of "send Stone off".[1]

After order was restored the complexion of the game changed. The Blues were visibly rattled and a minute after play resumed big Maroon prop Sam Backo crashed over to give Queensland a 10-6 lead. When Allan Langer later clinched the game at 16-6 and the series by taking an inside pass from Conescu to score, Lewis by now back from his exile, carried Langer back from the Blues' tryline in jubilation.

Game IIIEdit

Tuesday, June 21, 1988
  Queensland 38–22   New South Wales
(10 - 5 g) Gary Belcher
(4 - 1 t) Peter Jackson
(4 - 1 t) Joe Kilroy
(4 - 1 t) Wally Lewis
(4 - 1 t) Allan Langer
(8 - 2 t) Sam Backo
(4 - 1 t) Brett French
(Report) John Ferguson (4 - 1 t)
Wayne Pearce (4 - 1 t)
Steve Hanson (4 - 1 t)
Michael O'Connor (10 - 1 t, 3 g)
Sydney Football Stadium
Attendance: 16,910
Referee: [Greg McCallum}
Man of the Match: Sam Backo

Game III of 1988 was barely a contest and the feeble Sydney crowd of 16,910 reflected as much. With the series already decided, both teams opened up in a game of entertaining, free-flowing football. Queensland were unstoppable and Sam Backo grabbed a try double as the Maroons raced in seven tries to whip the Blues 38–22. Queensland had swept New South Wales 3–0 in their maiden whitewash.


New South WalesEdit

Position Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Fullback   Jonathan Docking   Garry Jack
Wing   Brian Johnston   John Ferguson
Centre   Mark McGaw
Centre   Michael O'Connor
Wing   Andrew Ettingshausen
Five-Eighth   Cliff Lyons   Terry Lamb   Cliff Lyons
Halfback   Peter Sterling   Des Hasler
Prop   Les Davidson   Phil Daley   Steve Hanson
Hooker   Royce Simmons   Ben Elias
Prop   Steve Roach
Second Row   Noel Cleal   Wayne Pearce (c)
Second Row   Steve Folkes
Lock   Wayne Pearce (c)   Paul Langmack
Replacement   Terry Lamb   Des Hasler   Greg Florimo
Replacement   David Trewhella   Paul Dunn   Noel Cleal
Coach   John Peard


Position Game 1 Game 2 Game 3
Fullback   Gary Belcher
Wing   Alan McIndoe
Centre   Gene Miles   Peter Jackson
Centre   Tony Currie   Gene Miles   Tony Currie
Wing   Joe Kilroy   Tony Currie   Joe Kilroy
Five-Eighth   Peter Jackson   Wally Lewis (c)
Halfback   Allan Langer
Prop   Sam Backo
Hooker   Greg Conescu
Prop   Martin Bella
Second Row   Wally Fullerton-Smith
Second Row   Bob Lindner
Lock   Paul Vautin (c)   Paul Vautin
Replacement   Brett French
Replacement   Scott Tronc   Trevor Gillmeister
Coach   Wayne Bennett


Following Queensland's first ever 3-0 Origin series whitewash, a record 9 Maroons were chosen for the first Ashes series test against the touring Great Britain Lions with the only Blues selected being fullback Garry Jack, winger Andrew Ettingshausen, centre Michael O'Connor, halfback Peter Sterling, front rower Phil Daley, the only NSW player in an almost all Queensland forward pack, and reserve forward Steve Folkes.


  1. ^ Steve Ricketts; Barry Dick; Paul Malone (23 May 2012). "The 30 greatest controversies in 30 years of State of Origin series". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 26 May 2012.


  • Big League's 25 Years of Origin Collectors' Edition, News Magazines, Surry Hills, Sydney

External linksEdit