How Big Artie ignited a dream: Walters

How Big Artie ignited a dream: Walters

The first State of Origin match at Lang Park in 1980 was a magical moment for rugby league in Queensland.

I was fortunate enough to be there – and I'll never forget it.

My brother Brett was selected to play for the Queensland Under 18 team that day, so we got ready nice and early and loaded into the family Kingswood.

We even took a mate, Brad 'Bootsy' Anderson, who sat in the back with Kerrod, and I.

The rest of the family was in the station wagon as well, minus Brett of course who was already in Brisbane getting ready for his big game.

We arrived about 4 o'clock and found somewhere to park just where the bus depot is now. The line up to get in went for kilometres and curled around Hale Street.

I'm not even sure Dad had tickets, but somehow, we ended up jumping through a hole in the fence at the Milton Road end of the ground.

I don't know if Dad had a pair of pliers, or what happened there, but there was a hole and we all just piled through and found a spot in the outer that we could watch the footy from.

It was an amazing experience. I remember the noise that everyone made when Arthur Beetson ran on to Lang Park for the Origin match.

It's one of those moments that stays with you; and from that day forward I wanted to try and do everything I could to play State of Origin.

It was just a dream, but you've got to do have those dreams to make it a reality.

Brett's side lost the Under 18 game to the young Blues, but it was a fantastic experience for him and his team, which included the likes of Kevin Langer and Martin Bella, who took on a NSW pack led by Steve Roach.

I've still got the match-day programme at home and I'm sure there were many more players who went onto play Origin and NRL.

It was just a great occasion. We were excited to watch Brett wear the Maroons jersey for the first time, and the chance to watch the first ever State of Origin match topped it off.

Fast forward to 2018, and we're about to see many talented young men and women follow in those footsteps and wear their state's colours in various representative matches.

My advice is to really enjoy the moment and just do your best in that jumper, because you don't know if it will be the last time you will wear those colours.

When you do get the chance to play for Queensland, whether it is at Origin level, Under 16s, Under 18s or Residents, you've got to be smart with your preparation and grab the opportunity with both hands.

In my role, I love getting around to all the different camps. My own kids are at that age now where they are playing with or against some of the state's emerging talent.

Cameron Munster is Billy's age, and Jack, 26, has friends who have come through our system and are now in the Origin team.

It's a bit surreal seeing them as 14 and 15-year-old's and then suddenly you're coaching them at Origin level.

Players like Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikormia are from Billy's crop, and here they are now playing in the NRL.

It's been amazing to see them come through the grades and into elite level.

There is a school of thought that our emerging talent don't have the same connection to our history as senior and former players.

A big part of my role, and all Queensland staff, is to reinforce that Maroons culture.

Mal Meninga reignited the Maroons culture – what it really does mean to play for Queensland and what it is all about.

We have some strong values there, and my role as the Queensland coach is to ensure the legacy continues.