THEY say first impressions are lasting impressions.
Greg Inglis made an extraordinary first impression on me and my Central Queensland Comets teammates; he also made an equally strong impression on the staff at my current school, Wavell State High School, but I’ll get to that later.
I knew instantly he would be a star.
It was in the early rounds of the 2005 season and we travelled to Bishop Park, Nundah to tackle Norths Devils.
I’d heard plenty about how Inglis, who debuted in the Intrust Super Cup a season earlier, had been terrorising opposition defensive lines at fullback.
He was taller than I expected. Very quick. Wiry, but strong.
We had a plan to kick the footy deep into the Devils’ left-hand corner in order to make the then 18-year-old travel from left to right in an attempt to negate his right-hand fend.
However, as the rugby league world now knows, Inglis has the uncanny ability to generate enormous amounts of force by throwing his right hand out across his body and fair into a would-be tackler’s chest.
I reckon I still have his hand print on my chest today.
From memory it was a carve up; a recent search found the score sheet that day and confirmed my recollection.
The Devils got up 44-12 as Inglis scored a hat trick of tries and kicked four goals; I’m sure he laid on another couple at least.
He scored 20 points that day and broke twice that many tackles.
I remember feeling pretty ordinary after that game, expected given the result.
However, it was only a few rounds later that Inglis made his NRL debut for Melbourne Storm.
Reassuringly, it wasn’t long before he was delivering that signature right fend to seasoned NRL veterans with the same result.
I’m currently teaching at Wavell State High School in Brisbane’s north.
It’s the school Inglis attended when he first signed with Melbourne and began playing at the Devils.
When news broke of Inglis’s retirement, I thought I’d call deputy principal Brendan Barlow.
Barlow was heavily involved in the rugby league program when Inglis was at the school, and was happy to share some memories of the Queensland State of Origin great.
“He was a really shy kid,” Barlow said.
“The first recovery session we had at the school was in the school pool.
“I remember him looking a bit uneasy, and I wasn’t sure what he was like at swimming so I asked him if he was OK.
“He reassured me he was; I was a bit worried he couldn’t swim.
“Anyway, he jumped in against the other kids and gave them windburn.
“He got to the other end before the other kids had done half a lap.
“I said to him he was probably the best swimmer for a rugby league player I’d seen. I guess that was Greg – he was just a super talent in whatever sport he did.
“He was a hell of a good kid at school.”
Barlow vividly remembers Inglis’s individual brilliance on show at a junior representative carnival.
“I remember him scoring a try in a state carnival playing for Met North up at Browne Park, Rockhampton and I think we were playing South Coast in a semi-final,” Barlow recalled.
“He picked the ball up in the far left-hand corner, as it was heading toward the dead ball line.
“Everyone thought the ball was going to go dead but Greg picked it up... he zig-zagged his way right across the in-goal and beat about eight defenders.
"He was just swatting players away with that big right-hand fend of his; he was getting close to the far touch line so he decided to come back towards the posts.
“He got to the posts, came off his right foot and ran 100 metres and scored under the posts down the other end.
“I remember everyone in the crowd stood up and gave him a standing ovation.”
Greg Inglis, congratulations on a wonderful career.