Origin showdown

By GREG WHITE

THREE days after their club sides did battle at Rex Hardaker Oval, Craig Wallace and Scott Mieni will again go 'to war' when New South Wales tangle with the Queenslanders in tonight's State of Origin opener.

And after Wallace's Panthers stitched up Mieni's Comets 50-30 in Group 2's greatest grudge match, the boy from 'back of Bourke' is out to square the ledger.

"Don't care what they win by just so long as they down Wal's mob," Mieni laughed while shadow boxing his great friend and rival.

"You don't have a prayer," Wallace shot back.

For all their bluster both have much in common and ? shock, horror it involves both States.

Each spent time playing for Gold Coast in it's various NRL incarnations and while where the border actually lies is often in dispute, it's generally recognised as Banana Bender territory.

And Wallace has another little secret in the cupboard in addition to captaining NSW Country when Mieni was the coach.

"I played for NSW Residents," he whispered of his other foray in a Blues jumper while living in Cockroach country.

As the boys continued their banter, Imperial Sportspower owner Greg Spence threw in another bone for them to chew on.

"Why give them blue and maroon jumpers?" Spence questioned, when asked to provide the team colours for the photo shoot.

"Look at their bald heads.

"Shouldn't I be giving them beanies to keep out the cold?"

Both coaches are full of stories (some unprintable) from their outstanding careers in rugby league and have rubbed shoulders with some of the legends of Origin.

"Chris 'Choppy' Close has been a mate for years," Mieni said, "and while he won't be involved this time his influence as a player and manager will be felt for a long time."

"I have to admit to a soft spot for the Maroons and reckon they'll be tough to beat."

Wallace played for Gold Coast in 1991 under the coaching of the greatest Origin player of them all.

"Wally Lewis," he remembered.

"Dale Shearer, Brett Horsenell and Brent Todd were a few other Origin players in my time."

With Gold Coast soon to re-emerge as the Titans, foundation player Mieni has a fund of stories from the 'Giants' era and confirms one tale from the club's early days.

"Times were tough and money was tight," he remembered.

"One day they put us on a bus in the middle of the night and sent us south to play Newcastle.

"We broke the trip in Coffs Harbour to have a big breakfast at the Pier Hotel, then they shovelled us back on board."

Later that afternoon and after almost 12 hours on the road, the travelling circus arrived at Broadmeadow.

"Not only did we beat them we bloody well smashed them," Mieni beamed.

Just like he hopes the Blues can smash the Maroons tonight.



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