Cordner: I can learn to 'hate' Inglis
NSW captain Boyd Cordner will never forget the welcome he received from Greg Inglis as he took his first tentative steps for Australia at the 2013 World Cup.
But Cordner confessed on Tuesday he could bring himself to "hate" Inglis, which is the standard script even for mates playing Origin.
The rivalry between the two captains for the 2018 Holden State of Origin series has its roots in mutual respect, although it might not seem like that out on the field at the MCG on June 6.
The admiration for each other will be further tested as one of them is likely to win the ultimate crown of captaining Australia in October's Test against New Zealand in Auckland, following the retirement of Cameron Smith.
Cordner made his NSW debut in game three 2013, just weeks after his 20th birthday. Inglis was heading towards his 20th game for the Maroons.
The first time the pair played in the same jumper came later that year at the World Cup. Nine of Cordner's 16 Tests have been as a teammate of Inglis.
"He's a gentleman, first and foremost," Cordner told NRL.com when asked his impressions of his rival skipper.
"That was something that stood out for me straight away as a young kid coming onto the representative scene and playing for Australia.
"He really made me feel welcome. I will always have time for Greg – he is a great guy.
"You can see the way he plays his footy how much there is to love about him. I could be here all day talking about that. You can't not be a fan of watching him."
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Cordner has no doubt that the honour of leading Queensland will only enhance Inglis' game.
"He's a unique guy and he has been the cornerstone of that Queensland team for a while now. The captaincy will just bring out even more good stuff in him," he said.
"Even Greg off just a few per cent is still a superb player. I don't think being captain in an Origin game will distract him much. He's a proud guy so having the captaincy will help his game for sure."
The fact both men were born on the northern NSW coast, just two hours drive apart - Taree for Cordner and Bowraville for Inglis - doesn't grate with the Blues captain.
"I don't really care too much. It was Greg's decision to go and play for Queensland. It was something he felt he had to do," Cordner told NRL.com.
"But I know me growing up on the mid-north coast means I'm NSW through and through. I was born and bred to love this jersey and nothing else."
And there goes the first shot by Cordner over the bow of Inglis because of the 31-year-old's decision to opt for Queensland before the eligibility rules were changed in December 2012.
On a brighter note for Cordner, the 25-year-old said this is the best he has felt at the start of an Origin series - no knee, ankle or lower back complaints.
"It's probably the first time I've got through the start of the season unscathed, ready to go, fully fresh for Origin. The body is feeling really good," said Cordner, who has had to battle with his chronic knee complaint.
"Everyone seems to be a doctor when you've got an injury. It's something I have to deal with; it's something I have to keep managing.
"But everything is going well at the moment so I'm staying positive and riding that wave."
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 here