Newcastle Knights legend Mark Hughes has labelled NSW’s record-breaking State of Origin victory as a “sensational” effort.
The Brad Fittler-led outfit stunned the rugby league world by dismantling the Queensland Maroons 50-6 in the 2021 series opener at QCB Stadium on Wednesday night (9 June).
With Manly Sea Eagles gun Tom Trbojevic in scintillating form, and well-supported by Latrell Mitchell, James Tedesco, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o and Novocastrian Daniel Saifiti, the Blues ran in eight tries to one.
“Like all of NSW, I don’t think we were expecting that type of win,” Hughes said.
“It was wonderful to sit back all night, the result never really in doubt, and just enjoy some of the amazing football skills on display, especially the centres (Trbojevic, Mitchell) and outside backs (Tedesco, To’o, Addo-Carr).
“Second-rower Tariq Sims was awesome and local boy [Daniel] Saifiti was great, too.
“Right across the park, they were all sensational.”
But, Hughes is not about to break out into song just yet.
He remains wary of a wounded Maroons outfit, who claimed the 2020 honours just six months ago.
“We all know Queensland will come back strongly,” he said.
“They’ve done that so many times.
“However, you’d have to say, after looking at last night’s match, the Maroons will need to make a lot of improvements.
“Because the way our side played, if they can produce somewhere near that again, NSW will be really hard to beat.”
The 44-year-old also admitted he was blown away by the Blues’ backing of his charity, the Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF), and much-loved offshoot Beanie for Brain Cancer.
“They’ve been fantastic supporters of the MHF; Freddy (Fittler), Bedsy (Danny Buderus) and the team,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“The two Penrith boys (To’o and Luai) were wearing their beanies in the sheds before the game.
“To get that type of support off the top-end players just rubs off onto everyone.
“We’re very grateful for that.
“It was a wonderful game, they played so well.
“I was really happy for all of them.”
Hughes, who made 161 appearances for the Knights from 1997 to 2005, pulled on a NSW jersey for the 2001 State of Origin Series, eventually won by Queensland 2-1.
He still fondly remembers his debut.
“The noise, the last game at Lang Park, the intensity – just everything,” he said.
“It’s the toughest football you’ll ever play.
“It was a long time ago, 20 years in fact.
“But, I certainly look back very proudly that I managed to represent the Blues during my career.”
The National Rugby League will conduct its popular Beanie for Brain Cancer round next week, starting from Thursday 17 June.