LEAGUE HEROES: Queensland Origin stars Scott Prince and Lote Tuqiri show off the State of Origin shield at Westco Motors with Bella Rogers, 9, Jack Kelly, 11, Emma Kelly, 6, Tom Edwards, 9, Lachlan Kelly, 9, Jack Edwards, 7, and Billy Prien, 13. Picture: STEWART MCLEAN

By Rhys O'Neill - photo and story courtesy of the Cairns Post

TWO former Maroons have brought the State of Origin shield and a flood of footy memories with them to the Far North.

Scott Prince and Lote Tuqiri ventured to Cairns yesterday and will stop off at Mareeba today as part of a QRL and Westco Mazda initiative to take the cherished trophy to the regions it means the most.

On the back of the historic all-Queensland NRL grand final and maiden Cowboys premiership, one-time Bronco, Tiger and Rabbitoh Tuqiri said it’s boom times for banana-benders.

“It’s always good to come to North Queensland and spread the QRL love,” he said.

“It (the grand final) was a great game and great advertisement for rugby league

“I was just happy that both teams were from Queensland and it went down to the wire.”

It’s a vastly different story from the Maroons mess Tuqiri and 10 fellow rookies inherited in the 2001 series.

NSW had scored a 56-16 trouncing and 3-0 whitewash the previous year, heralding the return of Wayne Bennett and the tentative steps in forging the modern Queensland empire.

“We had some massive changes,” six-game Maroon Tuqiri said. “Wayne came back in to coach and we had a lot of young blokes like John Buttigieg and John Doyle, Chris Walker, Petero Civoniceva, Carl Webb.

“It was something that I’d always dreamt of playing in. It was magic memories.

“It’s different now and there are a lot of good young players coming through, like Dane Gagai and Dylan Napa and Michael Morgan.

“Those are the sort of guys that will represent Queensland for the next 10 years.”

Prince, too, owned the sort of fragmented Origin career that saw him taste the sweet and the sour.

He made his debut while at the Wests Tigers in 2005 and only an injury to Darren Lockyer allowed him to line up alongside Johnathan Thurston in the Maroons halves in 2008.

“Good and bad,” Prince said of his Origin memories.

“I was a bit like Steven Bradbury when I first got the gig at halfback – everyone in Queensland was falling over – but I certainly loved it.

“And then in 2008 we won Game II at Suncorp 30-0 so that was a highlight.

“But then in Game III I broke my arm but the boys went on to do the job.”

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