NSW teams across four eras, led by Steve Mortimer, Laurie Daley, Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Paul Gallen have tonight been named as finalists in NSWRL’s “Best In Blue”, brought to you by The Star, at the second annual NSW True Blues Black Tie Dinner.

On a special night that pays tribute to all who have pulled on the sky blue jersey and represented the state since 1907, the Blues’ successes were celebrated through the launch of the NSWRL’s “Best In Blue”, a unique concept to identify the best-performed NSW team/ era in State of Origin history.

Coach Laurie Daley, who features in two of the winning teams/eras – as a player and coach – was one of the guest speakers at the gala function at The Star Event Centre, attended by more than 400 guests, just six weeks away from kick-off to Origin I at ANZ Stadium (1 June).

The four finalists for NSWRL’s “Best In Blue” – 1985-86 era (led by Steve Mortimer), 1992-94 era (Laurie Daley), 2003-05 era (Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus) and Paul Gallen’s 2014 team – were chosen by a judging panel consisting of Channel Nine’s legendary caller Ray Warren, NSWRL Chairman Dr George Peponis OAM and statistician David Middleton.

Voting will open to the general public from Tuesday 26 April to decide NSWRL's "Best In Blue", before the winning team will be saluted at a Best in Blue celebration, hosted by Ray Warren, at The Star’s 24/7 Sports Bar on 25 May.

“It has been a great honour to be a part of the judging panel alongside David Middleton and Ray Warren for NSWRL’s “Best In Blue” promotion, brought to you by The Star,” Dr Peponis said.

“There were many champion NSW teams which made our job all the more difficult. There could only be four finalists and we believe the four we have selected will make for an interesting voting period.

“The annual NSW True Blues Dinner is a very important night on the NSWRL calendar as it recognises and celebrates all those who have pulled on the Blues jersey, whether they have played one game or 30.”

Guests at the True Blues dinner, to celebrate the past, present and future of NSW Rugby League, included Immortals Graeme Langlands and John Raper, ARL Commission Chairman John Grant, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg, Australian coach Mal Meninga and former NSW Premier and strong Blues supporter, Barry O’Farrell.

“Tonight is a very special evening as past legends and current Blues players share their stories ahead of Origin I in six weeks’ time,” NSWRL CEO David Trodden said.

“NSWRL’s “Best In Blue” is an exciting promotion that will create greater hype around this year’s series.”
 
“Best In Blue” brought to you by The Star nominees

Turvey’s Trailblazers: 1985-86 era, led by Steve Mortimer

Under the coaching of Terry Fearnley and captaincy of Steve ‘Turvey’ Mortimer, the Blues of 1985 ended Queensland’s five-year domination of Origin to claim their first series win. The following year, coach Ron Willey guided New South Wales to the first series clean-sweep in State of Origin history. The Blues were dominant across 1985-86, winning five of the six games played. In both years, they claimed the series after winning the first two games.

Laurie’s Legends: 1992-94 era, led by Laurie Daley

Under the coaching of two-time premiership-winning coach Phil Gould, the Blues won three consecutive series in 1992, 1993 and 1994.They were the first NSW side to achieve the feat at Origin level. Canberra’s 22-year-old five-eighth Laurie Daley was their captain; he remains the only Blues player to lead the state to three successive series wins. The Blues claimed 2-1 victories in all three series and came from a 1-0 deficit in 1994 to win after victories in Melbourne and Brisbane. A number of players emerged during this period and went on to glittering careers with the Blues including Paul Harragon, Tim Brasher, Paul McGregor, Dean Pay and Brett Mullins.

Joey and Bedsy’s Heroes: 2003-05 era, led by Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus

For only the second time in the Blues’ Origin history, they won three consecutive series. The masterful Phil Gould, who had returned as coach in 2002, guided the team to back-to-back successes in 2003-04 before handing over to Ricky Stuart for the 2005 series. The Blues won the 2003 series inside two games before claiming victory in the 2004 decider. In the 2005 series, they came from 1-0 down to overcome an emerging Queensland outfit that included Billy Slater, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith. Future Immortal Andrew Johns played a leading role in the 2003 and 2005 victories while Brad Fittler emerged from representative retirement to spearhead the Blues’ 2004 triumph. Johns captained the Blues in 2003 before hooker Danny Buderus took over in the 2004-05 series.

Gal’s Drought Breakers: 2014 team, led by Paul Gallen

The Blues ended eight years of Queensland dominance with victories in the first two games of the series. The Maroons continued to field the nucleus of the team that had forged unprecedented success under the coaching of Mal Meninga since 2006. Led by skipper Paul Gallen, NSW won with an uncompromising defensive effort that restricted the Maroons to two tries in Game One and none in Game Two.

This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au