Timely Origin advice for Feldt
As he drifted in and out of the North Queensland team last season, Kyle Feldt admitted that he questioned his future in rugby league.
However, some off-season advice from two modern greats saw him drafted into the Maroons camp as injury cover and has put him one step closer to an Origin debut.
Feldt has been in camp with the Queensland team since Thursday training on the right wing in place of the injured Dane Gagai who was only today cleared of injury ahead of Game II of the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.
Having been put through individual exercises away from the main playing group all week, Gagai completed Sunday's opposed session at the team's base at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast.
Forever now etched in Cowboys and grand final folklore for scoring the try seconds before full-time that sent last year's decider to golden point, Feldt played only nine NRL games in 2015, his only sniff of representative football coming via the Intrust Super Cup Queensland Residents team.
Little more than 12 months on and he has been preparing as though he would run out in front of more than 50,000 Queenslanders on Wednesday night and conscious of the changes that have gotten him to this point – not to mention some advice from Cowboys team-mates Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
“I've taken that on quite a lot. That kind of really impacted me during the start of the year which was a good wake-up call and I really took that on and tried to prove to them that I can be in the top grade," said Feldt, who didn't play in the NRL between rounds 3 and 24 last season.
“It's been a whirlwind 24 months. I was playing Intrust Super Cup and then got my opportunity and really thought that I'd not let it slip this time.
“I really thought about what I wanted to do with my career and I didn't want to be one of those fringe players bouncing in and out of Cup. I really thought I had to knuckle down and take my opportunity when I got it the next time.
“I had a taste of NRL [in 2013], played three games, did my ankle, the next year I played another five or six games and kept getting pushed back to Cup and when I was there for a good couple of months I was doubting myself whether I'd make NRL again. It always goes through your mind.”
Although the grand final heroics would seem the obvious turning point in Feldt's career the 24-year-old said it was the preliminary final win over the Storm in Melbourne – the game that sealed North Queensland's path to the grand final – that solidified to him his desire to make rugby league his life.
“The game in Melbourne was really the one where we ground out a good win and that's when I really thought that I wanted to do this as a job," Feldt said.
“To see all the reactions on the boys' faces after we won before the grand final and then after the grand final was amazing.
“At training I'm just always working on the little things that did get me put back into Cup so I've just got to keep on top of them and if I keep on top of them I won't be going back.
"It's always in the back of your mind, you don't want to be going back there.”
A more professional approach to his football has not gone unnoticed by his Cowboys team-mates. The man standing alongside him on the field each week, Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill, said Feldt continued to grow in confidence and would be up to the challenge of an Origin debut should the opportunity arise.
“It's good seeing players that we play with at club level get invited into camps like this and to know that they are on the cusp of making Origin and that they are playing good enough footy,” O'Neill said.
“Having him outside me, he's grown as a player and the confidence there in our edge and the connection we have going.
“He's come a long way and he's playing some good footy. He's a big human so I like having him on the wing and back there for the high balls in defence he gets above most players.”