Great State of Origin Moments: The Miracle of ‘94
There have been countless unforgettable moments across rugby league history, but Queensland’s miraculous escape in 1994 could be the greatest of them all.
State of Origin, Game I, 1994. New South Wales vs. Queensland. Sydney Football Stadium.
Under the tutelage of Phil Gould and the captaincy of Laurie Daley, New South Wales are in the midst of a dynasty that will see them claim five of the six State of Origin series contested between 1992 and 1997. On the back of consecutive wins in ‘92 and ‘93, The Blues have entered Game I of the ‘94 series as warm favourites and Queensland are under enormous pressure to avoid a third straight defeat.
After a brutal 74 minutes of football, NSW lead 12-4 and seem certain to close out a relatively comfortable victory. Willie Carne crosses for Queensland in the 75th minute of play, bridging the gap to 12-10, but it’s likely to be a mere consolation prize for the gallant Maroons.
Queensland are dead and buried.
The Origin concept is finished.
It’s now the 79th minute – less than 60 seconds remain. Queensland’s interchange winger, Mark Coyne, plays the ball 40 metres out from his own line.
Maroons’ captain, Mal Meninga, playing in his last ever series, moves into the position of acting-half. Playmaker Allan Langer calls for the Steeden and spirals a pass to his partner in crime, Kevin Walters. Sensing the NSW defence rushing off their line, Walters quickly shovels the ball along to the dynamic winger-cum-fullback Willie Carne. Carne – outstanding throughout and later named man-of-the-match – jinks left looking for space but, surrounded by Blue jumpers, recognises his plight and lofts a one-handed overhead pass to Steve Renouf. Renouf, the electrifying Broncos centre, reaches back for the ball, pirouettes and accelerates down the left flank.
The NSW cover defence swarms across.
Renouf flicks an unorthodox (yet brilliant) pass back inside to fiery winger, Michael Hancock, who juggles momentarily. Hancock desperately scrambles to gain control, but the moment he does, he’s hit ferociously by Blues’ speedster, Andrew Ettingshausen.
That’s all, folks. The game is over. As Hancock is driven backwards, the heart of every Queensland fans sinks.
No – incredibly, miraculously, Hancock conjures a superb offload to interchange forward, Darren Smith.
How did he do that?
Smith bursts onto the pass at top-speed and drifts towards the middle of the field, expertly drawing two New South Welshmen before releasing a perfectly timed pass to Langer.
A glimmer of hope. Surely not?
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The little maestro, Langer, is quickly rounded up from behind, but floats a lovely ball to the veteran, Meninga, who sets off for the line. Just 15 metres left, but so much still to do.
With Blues’ centre, Brad Fittler, closing in, Meninga passes wider still to Mark Coyne – the man who played the ball 50 metres back down the field – on his outside. Coyne steps sharply off his right foot, inside Fittler, ducks under a flailing Ricky Stuart and lunges desperately for the try line.
Arm outstretched, he plants the ball down.
Disbelief. Ecstasy. Agony. Joy.
That’s not a try—that’s a miracle!
– Ray Warren delivers one of the most famous lines of commentary in Australian sporting history
State of Origin has had some incredible moments in its short history, but Mark Coyne’s try to clinch victory in the final seconds is arguably the finest of them all. Queensland used virtually every inch of space – the entire width of the field, twice over – to pry apart the New South Wales defence. In fact, when everything is considered – the importance of the match, the skill level required, the number of players involved, the quality of the opposition, the timing of the play – the miracle of ’94 is arguably the greatest rugby league try of all time.
It was something special, probably the best team try there has been…
– Queensland Captain, Mal Meninga, reflects on the Miracle of ’94