Reds under pressure to deliver
July 7, 2011
Queensland legend Darren Lockyer lifts the State of Origin shield following his side's success in Brisbane on Wednesday night © Getty Images
The Reds are under growing pressure to maintain Queensland's golden run of sporting success in Saturday's Super Rugby showdown with the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland's dominant victory in the deciding State of Origin clash in Brisbane on Wednesday night was just the latest chapter in the state's sporting fairytale in a year where January's floods and Cyclone Yasi have proved an emotional rallying point.
The rugby league legend Darren Lockyer was granted the send-off he deserved from Origin football, now can the Reds, positioned at the other end of the success spectrum, complete a unique Queensland foursome in the Super Rugby season finale?
Football's Brisbane Roar started Queensland's golden run when they claimed the 2010-11 A-League crown - a season after they finished second last. Next it was the historically under-performing netballers chance to shine when the Firebirds continued New Zealand's trans-Tasman championship agony, beating the Northern Mystics to become the fourth Australian franchise to lift the trophy.
And last night, before a ground record-equalling crowd of 52,498, Queensland claimed game three of the Origin series with a compelling 34-24 triumph over New South Wales. Now the onus is on the Reds to follow the netballers' lead and celebrate at the end of their first appearance in a final.
Reds captain James Horwill, who sat in awe as the Maroons raced to a 24-0 lead, admitted his team faced a tough assignment to match the achievements of their Queensland contemporaries. "Brisbane has had a lot of success in the last few months, now we have to try and continue that. It won't be easy," the Wallabies lock said.
His final is also a sell-out and Horwill hopes Origin's fever-pitch atmosphere will be replicated to intimidate the Crusaders. "It was quite a spectacle, the roar when Queensland ran out was deafening. It was a special night."
Brad Thorn, who played 11 Origins for Queensland either side of his illustrious career with the Crusaders and All Blacks, was also among the well-wishers as his old mate Lockyer did everything but score a try as the Maroons sealed a record sixth successive series win.
While Thorn was incognito in the stands, team-mate Sonny Bill Williams raised further questions about his future allegiance when he was interviewed at half-time with a Queensland scarf draped around his shoulders.
Horwill certainly had no doubt where Williams' heart resided for now. "I think a lot of the Canterbury boys support Queensland," he said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside
"He had a death stare so you'd know when you were wrong." George Kruis talks about his mentor Borthwick, fly-fishing and his England aspirations