Queensland players and coaching staff assembled tonight to rally behind three players who will celebrate major milestones at ANZ Stadium tomorrow evening.
In a moving team dinner at their Parramatta hotel, the Maroons paused to recognise the achievements of Gavin Cooper, Corey Parker and Greg Inglis.
For Cooper, the Game III clash against the desperate Blues will fulfil a childhood dream.
“I’ll just be doing what I do every week with the Cowboys, putting in,” Cooper said when presented with his first Origin jersey from Cowboys teammate Matt Scott.
“(I’ll) always put the team first and hopefully I don’t let any of you boys down tomorrow night.”
While Cooper hopes Game III will be the start of a long representative career, the match will be Parker’s final game in his beloved maroon colours.
Parker explained how a burning desire to play alongside his “close mates” once more drove him towards an Origin recall after several years out of the team.
“I got that opportunity again in 2011 and I’ve approached every camp and every game like it is my last,” the Broncos forward told teammates.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment. Although when the footy stops, it will be hard to watch, but the hardest thing for me is to know that I won’t be alongside you guys through this period.”
Before Parker took the floor, Maroons captain Cameron Smith spoke passionately about the immense contribution his former Logan junior teammate had made to the game.
“When you talk about guys playing every game like it’s their last, that’s the way I’ve seen Cozza play in this team since that day when he got his opportunity back in this jumper,” Smith said.
“I guess none of those games or series represents that more than last year. You capped off a wonderful series being named the Wally Lewis Medallist last year and quite easily was our best player in Game III and made us play the way we did.
“I’m behalf of everyone here, congratulations on what you’ve done at his level. Eighteen games, 19 tomorrow night … I hope you really enjoy the occasion.”
For Inglis, the final match of the 2016 series marks his 30th game for the Maroons.
“I always look forward to this time of year. I know how much this jersey means to every single one of us,” Inglis said.
The last player to notch 30 games for the Maroons, current squad member Nate Myles, presented Inglis with the FOGS Statesman Award.