NSW have brought the State of Origin shield to a lacklustre homecoming at the Sydney Opera House.
It should have been a great sight: NSW captain Paul Gallen holding up the State of Origin shield in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge to a sea of Blues supporters.
But on a fine winter’s day, only between 200 and 300 Blues fans showed up to a bittersweet homecoming at the Sydney Opera House.
Despite ending Queensland’s eight-year reign, NSW’s hopes of securing a series whitewash were dashed on Wednesday night when they suffered a 32-8 defeat in game three at Suncorp Stadium.
The reception on Thursday was organised at short notice, and it showed.
“It’s bittersweet,” NSW five-eighth Josh Reynolds said.
“I don’t think many people knew we were coming today … so it’s good to see everyone’s still getting behind us.”
Gallen said winning the shield was the highlight of his career, even if it wasn’t on home soil.
“I don’t care. I got to lift it up and it felt good.”
Gallen said he was motivated to make sure it wasn’t a one-off.
“I did sleep with [the shield] in my room last night … but I just hope it stays in NSW for a couple more years now.”
This year’s player of the series also apologised to the two million people in NSW he forgot to thank last night.
“It goes to show how much I listen to my coach because Laurie (Daley) said all throughout the series: ‘There’s five million people we’re playing for in NSW’, and I was told this morning there’s actually seven, but rest assured we did it for all of you.”
NSW Premier Mike Baird, who won a bet with his Queensland counterpart over the series, said: “I really look forward to Campbell Newman running in a Blues jersey. That’s going to be a great day.”
Mr Newman must wear a NSW Origin jersey for a run around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting.