State of Origin 2017, Game Three: Sublime Cameron Smith commands new generation of Maroon stars

 NSW centre Josh Dugan runs into the Queensland defence in Origin III.
NSW centre Josh Dugan runs into the Queensland defence in Origin III.

For all of the talk about a lack of pre-game bitterness and a sudden onset of collegiality between the states, this was the last thing Queensland would see before they made the journey from the Suncorp Stadium dressing rooms to the field.

It was a quote from legendary Maroons manager Dick 'Tosser' Turner, emblazoned on the wall next to a huge image of Arthur Beetson, the departed Don of Origin football in these parts.

'The moment Arthur stood up to be counted against this enemy of ours," said the late Turner, 'was the most important event in the history of the State of Origin.'

These days, they play nice off the field. Maybe the football in Origin has become so ludicrously good that the Phoney War in the tabloids no longer serves a purpose. But this message was as old school as it gets: 'They are not us. We are not them. Never forget.'

Not that Queensland needed added incentive. Before the game began, Johnathan Thurston - maybe he's the greatest Origin player of them all - was farewelled in front of a stadium of his worshippers.

He was serenaded by Bernard Fanning in scenes of Queensland euphoria that could hardly be more heady if Susie O'Neill was off the long run to Allan Border, who in turn was cover-driving cans of XXXX into the crowd while standing atop The Big Pineapple.

Cameron Smith made NSW wait on the field, then couldn't wait to start picking them to pieces. The Maroons captain said he would run more in game three and in the first half, ended up running riot.

For almost the first time in the series, Queensland looked bigger, stronger, faster. They were owning the biggest collisions and cashing in on their hard graft. Smith was in so many places at once it looked as if he'd been cloned and his Melbourne comrades were rolling with him.

Cooper Cronk's 30-metre cross-field kick for the second of Valentine Holmes' three tries was so good it nearly drilled a hole in the winger's chest cavity. Billy Slater made selectors wonder why the hell he wasn't there from the start of the series.

And as stars fade out of this team, new ones arise. Cameron Munster's debut oozed class, electricity and quality. They have found their successor for the famous No. 6 six jersey. His debut was all-time and their apparent looming halves drama was solved before it began.

If NSW had hoped the great Maroons era would simply die off amid a string of retirements, the bad news is the regeneration has already started. Dane Gagai, Dylan Napa, Josh McGuire and Holmes have risen to new heights in this series already. Coen Hess barely got started.

Waiting in the wings next year are Greg Inglis and front row bull Matt Scott, as well as Darius Boyd. The dynasty that seemed so meek and fragile in game one now seems as solid as ever before.

As Turner said, NSW are still the enemy, good blokes or not. Now the next generation of Maroon guns know exactly what that means.