The sad fact that the closest highlight for Selwyn Cobbo – and Aboriginal rugby league on Sunday evening – was as early as it was fleeting.

One of only two State-of-Origin selections waving the Indigenous flag in Perth, Cobbo all but appeared off to the most spectacular of starts.

Inside the opening six minutes, the Wakka Wakka man caught a Dane Gagai sideline pass and leapt into the corner for Queensland towards the first score of the clash.

But direct wing rival, Brian To’o, who had initially been left back-pedalling to his line was equal to the task and denied the 20-year-old from Cherbourg in front of nearly 60,000 fans.

‘I love this state’: First Nations debutant shines in Maroons’ Origin I win

The split-second turfing into touch set the tone for the under-represented Indigenous stars amid New South Wales piling on 30 unanswered second-half points to win 44-12 and square the series 1-all heading into the decider in Brisbane.

Cobbo in just his second Origin appearance had an even sloppier night thereafter that included multiple dropped bombs and conceding overlaps on his edge of the field.

He collected three tackle busts, but still struggled to go forward against an aggressive Blues’ defensive line.

The winger gained just 59 metres by the final siren, a far cry from his lauded Sydney debut where he ran 141 metres with the ball.

Gagai generally was solid in defence with 21 tackles – equal to any teammate in the Maroons backline – but watched Penrith rivals run past him twice during the Blues’ seven tries.

The Torres Strait Islander, representing his Yam and Badu island community, only gained 38 metres after standing out with a try in the opening Origin of the series.

Wiradjuri man Nicho Hynes entered the Blues must-win game as the reserve and was unused for the second straight occasion.

A compilation of injuries, illness and form reduced the mob in both teams from five Indigenous representatives to just two between the two games staged 18 days apart.

Reuben Cotter was the biggest blow for the Maroons on Sunday after scan results last week confirmed a grade-three hamstring strain during North Queensland’s warm-up ahead of facing Manly.

Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton was forced to miss after being placed in isolation after contracting Covid-19.

Selectors dropped Brisbane teenager Kotoni Staggs after a somewhat modest debut.

  • Story by Andrew Mathieson