Chris Close: Origin grenade was 'a disgraceful show of disrespect'

Queensland try to comprehend a heavy defeat to New South Wales Scott Barbour/ALLSPORT

It is often said that time heals all wounds; apparently not in Queensland, however.

It was Wednesday June 7, 2000, a date that has shaped the fabric of State of Origin forever, a date that haunts the Maroons to this day; but it is now also a date they would not want to change, a date that was the catalyst for the most dominant era in Origin history.

Two-nil down in the series, the Maroons were already feeling lower than a cockroach's belly as almost 60,000 parochial Blues fans packed into ANZ Stadium baying for more cane toad blood.

New South Wales fans got what they asked for, and they went home delirious after Queensland were flogged by a record 56-16; but it would be the Blues who would ultimately be the biggest losers.

"Isn't karma a wonderful thing?" Maroons great Chris Close told ESPN.

Close played 14 games for Queensland, including a Man of the Match performance in the first ever Origin encounter in 1980, and there have been very few more loyal and passionate servants to wear the Maroons jumper.

But on that fateful day, the man nicknamed "Choppy" was not a happy chappie.

As Queensland's assistant coach, Close was forced to endure 80 excruciating and embarrassing minutes of Origin football; it was the worst experience of his decorated 12-year rugby league career.

Close, a former Australia international with the Kangaroos, sat helplessly on the sideline as the demolition unfolded; but it was a 20-second period, 15 minutes from fulltime, that will stay with him forever.

New South Wales forward Bryan Fletcher lumbered over the try line to improve the score to 44-10 before he and his Blues teammates combined for a finely choreographed try celebration.

It involved Fletcher tossing at his Blues colleagues an imaginary hand grenade that exploded in front of the Queensland players as New South Wales joked and laughed at their rivals' expense.

"I thought it was disgraceful act and a disgraceful show of disrespect," Close told ESPN.

"You would certainly never, ever see that from any Queensland team."

Unbeknown to everyone outside the Maroons dressing room, that moment sowed the seed for an Origin era that would inflict more pain on the Blues than anyone could have imagined.

As the Maroons now sit one win away from a 10th series win in 11 years, it would seem the grenade has blown up in the Blues' faces.

"I refuse to let it go," Close told ESPN.

"It still burns. F---ing oath it does."

Sixteen years have passed, but Close is no closer to forgiving or forgetting.

The 57-year old, a vital member of Queensland's inner sanctum for decades, insists the celebration was never used as a source of motivation but he concedes that it was often mentioned in camp.

"It didn't motivate us anymore but it f---ing left a sour taste in all of our mouths, and I still can't f---ing spit it out."

Well, if Queensland think they are still scarred from the "grenade", try to comprehend the pain it has caused for New South Wales.