Why Patty Mills is made for Maroons camp: Walker
Each week former Queensland State of Origin strike weapon Chris Walker writes exclusively for QRL.com.au.
Hearing that NBA star Patty Mills tweeted the Maroons this week saying he'd be happy to run the water for Origin – I thought: 'What a champion bloke'.
He's exactly the type of guy you'd want in an Origin camp.
I actually approached Patty a few years back via social media when I was travelling around America with my wife Courtney.
He organised tickets for us to come see his team, the San Antonio Spurs, play the LA Lakers at the Staples Centre in downtown Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant was out injured for the Lakers at that time, but even if Kobe had played, I only had eyes for Mills.
It was a privilege to see him play, and I don't just mean because he's an Aussie, but the way he conducted himself among some of the superstars of world sport.
He was one of the smallest players on the court, yet absolutely ferocious.
Guys like Tony Parker were trading high fives with him and you could tell the respect his teammates had for him.
Patty carries himself on and off the court like a champion – and to think of how hard he must have had to push himself to rise to the top of one of the most popular and difficult sports in the world is mind-blowing.
He has that never-say-die attitude.
Dare I say it...it's a Queenslander attitude.
I'm aware Patty was born in Canberra, but he's a proud Torres Strait Island man and I know he follows the Broncos and has a relationship with a few of the players there.
During Origin camp, coaches often bring in special guests who are known winners and can elevate or lighten the mood.
People think of Wayne Bennett as a fairly serious guy, but one thing he used to do the night before an Origin game was to have a comedian perform for the team.
My favourite from my time in Origin was Jimeoin, an Irish comedian who loved Australia, and Queensland in particular.
You'd be training in front of 40 cameras all week during Origin camp, so you knew it wasn't your average Saturday afternoon game.
In fact, the expectation and tension was huge.
But Wayne, being the ultimate man manager, knew perfectly how to manipulate everyone's mindset so they'd be prepared for a strong performance.
He'd make sure all the on-field and physical preparation was spot-on, but he would take away the feeling that you were continually tightening the screws, or the threat you would overthink the game before kick-off.
I can remember the team having a private audience with Jimeoin, laughing our heads off, drinking a milkshake and then having the perfect night's sleep.
The release valve had been well and truly opened.
Obviously, Patty Mills is a different kettle of fish, but having someone like that around would be a great distraction for the Maroons boys, a lot of whom are mad basketball fans.
And the thing about a person of that calibre is not simply that he knows how to prepare for huge events like a champion.
If you asked me when I was playing who would have been the perfect choice for inspiration in a Maroons camp, I probably would have said someone like Muhammad Ali (who was alive then) or Michael Jordan.
But in reflection, they wouldn't have been the best choices – mainly because they wouldn't 'get' Origin and it might devolve into a circus.
Whereas, someone like Patty has a genuine affinity for the game and understands what it means to be a Queenslander at heart.
When you play for Queensland, you don't just represent yourself, your club, your coach and your family.
You genuinely do feel as though you are representing each person in the state.
It's an amazing feeling to have that kind of support and that kind of devotion and commitment to draw upon.
You know how hard everyone is cheering for you, and you know just about every TV in every suburb is tuned to Origin, because that's exactly how it was for you as a kid.
Former clubmates who represented New South Wales often confided in me that they envied Queenslanders, because we received 100 per cent support.
Win, lose, or draw, nobody in Queensland switches sides and starts supporting the other side.
The loyalty to the Maroon is binding and unflinching.
If you play one State of Origin game for Queensland, you're a legend in most people's eyes, no matter if you played 10 minutes off the bench.
That's a remarkable edge to have.
New South Wales fans have been known to be ambivalent at times, and new players sense that if they don't perform, they'll get thrown to the wolves by some fans and the media, and possibly replaced for the next game.
Imagine the pressure and insecurity that atmosphere causes.
Meanwhile, a Queensland rookie walks out knowing chances are, everyone is going to love them and remember them forever afterwards.
The Maroons have some challenges this series after the loss of some key players, but the influence of the passion which Queensland fans bring to the game should not be underestimated – from those like you and me, and those like Patty Mills living half a world away.