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Better Red than Fred - late try spoils Comeback II

By Brad Walter
June 17, 2004 - 12:09AM

History repeated itself for Brad Fittler last night as his second attempt at a fairytale end to his State of Origin career agonisingly failed when Queensland came from behind to level the series with a 22-18 win at Suncorp Stadium.

Having come out of retirement to help NSW through an injury crisis, and to try to make amends for his disappointing departure three years ago in Brisbane, Fittler played a starring role but could not get the Blues home.

Clearly disappointed after the game, he refused to commit himself to Origin III, saying: "I don't believe in fairytales anymore. I've wiped that word out of my vocabulary - there's no such thing."

But now there is speculation that the former Queensland captain, Gorden Tallis, may come out of retirement for the final Origin clash.

A NSW victory would have been the perfect way to go out for Fittler, the state's most capped Origin player, as the Blues would have taken a 35-34 lead in games won since the Origin concept began in 1980.

Instead, Queensland can still proudly boast that they have never been headed in that area after coming back from 12-6 down at half-time to claim victory through second-half tries to Billy Slater and Dane Carlaw - ensuring another bumper promotion for Origin III.

The Newcastle connection of Matt Gidley and Timana Tahu had given NSW the 12-6 half-time lead.

Queensland's coach Michael Hagan, who also coaches the Knights, had to watch his two Newcastle stars feature in both NSW tries, Tahu grabbing a double.

Fittler got his first touch at the kick-off and was heavily involved throughout.

Alternating between first and second receiver with his Sydney Roosters teammate Brett Finch (making his Origin debut after being a late inclusion when halfback Brett Kimmorley injured his hamstring at training last Sunday), Fittler began the movement that led to the opening try.

But that early promise of Origin glory was not fulfilled.