In the lead up to State of Origin II, Josh Jackson dedicated his performance in what could have been the series decider to all 2,018 residents of Gulgong.
After his Man of the Match performance, there won’t be a single person in the two thousand that will be disappointed with how their rugby league superstar played.
The NSW Blues may have capitulated their 10-point lead in the dying moments of the game at ANZ Stadium, but it wasn’t through lack of trying from Josh.
The massive forward was the talk of the match in the opening stanza, making his presence known early.
With the score locked at 0-0, strong runs from Jackson and a series of key tackles on the other side of the ball earned Gulgong, and Mudgee, a comment on Channel 9’s coverage.
Mention was also made of the Maroon’s starting number 10, Jarrod Wallace, who played juniors at the Mudgee Dragons with Jackson before moving back to Queensland.
Off the back of Josh’s runs, coupled with strong early performances from Aaron Woods, Boyd Cordner and a rampaging Jake Trbojevic, NSW found their way to a 10-point lead at half time.
Though they trailed early off a contentious try from Sharks winger Valentine Holmes, Jarryd Hayne crossed the line minutes later to level the score.
Brett Morris then put NSW four points ahead and the dominant first half was capped with a Mitchell Pearce try off the back of a Trbojevic offload.
From there it was all down hill for the Blues as they fumbled at the final hurdle.
A double from Dane Gagai, who has now scored seven in six, and two goals from Thurston put the Maroons two points clear within the dying minutes.
The late defeat doesn’t spell total disaster for the Blues, as they now face a decider in Brisbane in three weeks.
The question now – if they couldn’t do it in Sydney, can they stop the Queensland dynasty in the Maroon’s backyard?
If Josh can deliver another exhilarating performance, and NSW can lift once more, then maybe they can.