IT was one of those great unfiltered moments after Origin II when Channel Nine mics picked up Paul 'Fatty' Vautin saying what we were all thinking following the Blues' series-clinching 26-0 demolition of the Maroons.
"... they may as well call off the third."
Call it a moment of frustration for a proud Queenslander. The tune understandably changed north of the border following game three, but it has exposed a reality when it comes to dead rubbers. People have a habit of reading either too much or too little into them.
It came to mind watching Ben Hunt star for Queensland last week. It was hard not to be happy for the guy who, despite being one of the game's great blokes, has been a punching bag for many over recent years.
Cast your mind back to the 2018 series where Hunt was anointed Queensland's successor to Cooper Cronk at No. 7. After two games and a tight series loss, he was scapegoated to the bench by the man who anointed him, then-coach Kevin Walters.
Daly Cherry Evans came in for a free kick in game three, his first game since 2015. He parlayed that ensuing dead-rubber win into the captaincy of his state, memorably hoisting the Origin shield last year as skipper of the 'worst ever' Queensland team.
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Overlooking Hunt for game one this year was a stuff-up, but a small one compared to the howlers in other build-ups for Queensland. Hunt's performance posed the question though: How much should we read into performances in dead rubbers?
To go further, should we read anything into dead rubbers at all?
It's often players, past and present, who trot the adage that "there's no such thing as a dead rubber". In reality, it's the NRL and TV networks that are keenest to push that narrative. The game wants to feed its fattest cash cow.
Broadcasters pay for three games and, by gee, they're going to get them. Vautin is employed by one and still said what we were all thinking. Other than TV cash - which is admittedly a compelling reason - why do we play the third when it's not a decider?
People who do push the 'no such thing' line will point to the fact that there have only been seven sweeps in Origin history (not counting the one-game 'sweeps' in 1980-81).
A closer analysis, specifically of non-deciding game threes, actually points to the opposite. Sides up 2-0 don't struggle to win game three as such; they appear to struggle for motivation. They lose their edge.
This year, the Blues were a 70-point better team over the first two 'live' games. Did game three really render that sort of anomaly?
Most things the Blues did - top to bottom - pointed to consciousness that the game meant little. A lack of early intensity was one thing, but there were signs before that.
Were it a decider, do you really think selectors would have gone with debutant Mitch Moses instead of Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds or both in the halves? Brad Fittler and Greg Alexander have been asked that question and their touchiness in response points to the answer.
Likewise, would they have gone to Latrell Mitchell for a penalty goal from halfway if the series was on the line? Perhaps, but it looked an each-way bet. If you've already won a hundred grand, are you going to be all that worried about losing a hundred bucks through the pokies chasing a feature?
Likewise, does a two-point win in a 'nothing' game save Paul Green?
If history shows anything, it's that NSW did well to keep things close with the series already in the bag.
In the history of three-game series, there've been 19 sweep opportunities for seven conversions (37 per cent). When it comes to the other 12, teams who've already lost the series have won dead rubbers by a combined score of 265-132.
The trend began back in 1985, the year of the Blues breakthrough first series win. They won game one 18-2 and game two 21-14. With the shield already theirs, they dropped game three 20-6.
Series through the 90s played out closely regardless of the ledger, but that's changed over the last two decades. From NSW being up two-zip in 2003 to this year, there have been seven sweep opportunities. The Blues have had four of them, the Maroons three.
The series losers have won those dead rubbers by a combined 170-78.
What the figures over the last two decades illustrate compared to the previous two, is that Origin is a different beast off the field these days. What used to be short camps extend to 10-12 days.
A media pack, corporate interest, fan engagement and the inherent responsibilities of all three have ballooned in size. It's a huge drain on players and, if the series is already done and dusted, it weighs even heavier.
You can say Origin's Origin, every minute is worth it. You'd be right to some degree; last week's game was certainly several notches above your regular club game. B
But there's no escaping the fact Origin cannibalises the regular season and International football more and more each passing season.
It bears looking at. There might be no such thing as a dead rubber, but there is certainly such a thing as dead weight.