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10 blokes that defied Origin expectations: Walker

It didn't take a genius to know Greg Inglis would kill it at State of Origin level.

Similarly, you could be fairly certain Kalyn Ponga was always going to make an impression when his time came - although the extent of that success was sill stunning.

However, there have been numerous times Queensland selectors have rolled the dice on players who could have been hit-and-miss.

I've been asked to come up with 10 Maroons who enjoyed Origin careers that may have surprised a few people.

Because of my tender years (shh, no laughing) I've focused on the past two decades predominantly, although I know even the little legend Allan Langer himself was a shock performer to many as well.

So here we go with my top 10:

10. Ashley Harrison
Ash had a weird sort of career in the fact that a lot of hype was made about him when he debuted in the NRL, but then it died down – paradoxically when he started to play his best football. I'm aware there were people at the end of his Origin career saying: "Really, Queensland have picked Ash Harrison? What's he bring to the team." However, Ash is one of those guys that brings confidence to every dressing shed. You could look over at him and know he'd do his job every time. He does all the little things right both in the game and during preparation. He deserved every one of his 15 games in the Queensland jersey.

9. Terry Cook
You could name quite a few blokes from Fatty Vautin's 1995 team in this list, and I guess that's why that series holds such a special part in our hearts. Queenslanders love an underdog more than anything don't they? I've plucked Terry out because he was such an unassuming, salt-of-the-earth guy. He seems the kind of person that if you told him he shouldn't be playing Origin, he'd shrug his shoulders and agree with you. But he ended up making himself, his family and the whole state proud. Spilt his blood for Queensland.

8. Carl Webb
Big old 'Charlie' Webb and I go a long way back to when we both grew up on the Darling Downs. As a kid, he killed it and you always got a sense he would play NRL at some stage, but to be elevated so quickly to the Origin arena was a shock. He wasn't the biggest bloke, but when he had the ball in his hand, he had the eye of the tiger. I think that's why Queensland fans took him to heart. That try he scored, when he rolled through a handful of defenders, along with the game where he dominated Luke Bailey, will live on in Origin folklore.

7. John Doyle/John Buttigieg
I'll include these two guys as one entry, because they have the same symbolism. They came into the team in the same year that I did, when the Cowboys club was not travelling too flash. You have to remember that back then some people were talking about kicking North Queensland out of the competition or whether they could ever possibly be successful. I remember the New South Wales press took the mickey out of Doyle and Buttsy mainly because they didn't have big names, but they were there to fulfil certain roles and they achieved just that. Holding the Origin shield over their heads at the end of the series was a good response.

6. Ben Ikin
No list of Origin 'surprise packets' is complete without referencing the story about Fatty Vautin meeting Ben Ikin in the elevator before Game I, 1995 and not knowing who the heck he was. I don't think Fatty would have been on his 'Pat Malone' in that instance either. Benny had only played a handful of games for the Gold Coast at that stage, but he had immediate impact in the Origin arena. To play 17 games by the end of his Origin career was testament to that ability. He didn't just play a role either – he was part of some integral moments that turned around results in big games.

5. Darius Boyd
For much of his career, Darius was a guy that people just loved to unleash on. In one sense you could say he was destined to be a first grade player from his youth when a lot of scouts had big wraps on him, but to become one of the leading try-scorers all-time in Origin is no mean feat. Yes, he did play outside some exceptional talent in the heyday of Queensland's dominance, but he still had to execute and play his part. The way some people talk about Darius, you'd think he was the only other bloke available to play in the backline – not a guy who was better than tens of thousands of aspirants from around the state who all dreamed of doing the same thing.

4. Ben Hannant
If you saw Ben Hannant without knowing anything about him, you'd thought I was joking if I suggested he would one day become an Australian representative, NRL All Star and 12-game Origin rep. That's pretty much what I thought when he came through as a Roosters lower grader. He seemed too nice and too small to ever take interstate games by the scruff of the neck. But if you ever saw Benny train, you'd understand how he came so far. He'd lead beep tests and long runs – no easy feat for a forward. I think coming from such a large family made Ben the ultimate competitor and he just loved pulling on the Queensland colours.

3. Jacob Lillyman
If you looked up the dictionary for 'fashionable', Jacob Lillyman would be under the section for antonyms. He's not someone who has ever existed under the limelight, but gee he was tough and gave it a red-hot crack for Queensland whenever he was picked. Jacob worked very hard to be where he got to be, as I believe any player has to when they go to New Zealand for an extended period. Lillyman played 14 Origin games for 9 wins and, as they say, forwards win matches.

2. Adam Mogg
Perhaps Origin's most celebrated 'Neville', scoring three tries in two games, including one in the 16-14 Game III that tipped the balance of the 2006 series. What I like so much about the Adam Mogg story is that genuine Queensland rugby league fans deep down knew what he could do. If you followed the Intrust Super Cup back in the days when he was running around, you knew he had some talent. Because Moggy moved down to Canberra and didn't have a flash haircut or name, the southern media expected very little of him. I think he got the last laugh.

1. Johnathan Thurston
"Whoa, hold your horses," I can hear you say. Yep, JT had already been a Dally M Player of the Year by the time he got picked for Queensland, but how many of you can hand-on-heart say that you were confident he would dominate Origin the way he did? Back in his younger days he was very much an ad-lib footballer who didn't always look committed to a set game plan. In an Origin environment, surrounded by so many other star players, that could have backfired. Instead, he became a cornerstone of one of the most remarkable representative records forged in rugby league. He might not have been a 'nuffie' at any stage, but in my eyes he is the player who rose the most in people's estimations. Not bad for a guy who the Bulldogs let go in order to keep Brent Sherwin.