A wiser and more mature Cameron Munster will run out for the Queensland Maroons on Wednesday night after changing an attitude that he admits “probably stunk”.
The Maroons five-eighth said the man he had to thank for his reformation was his Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, to whom he owes an “eternal debt” for sticking by him when he thought he was going to be sacked at the end of 2017.
It was a tumultuous period for Munster who was involved in an altercation with Ben Hunt during the Kangaroos’ World Cup campaign. He was pushing the boundaries and about to ruin a burgeoning stellar career before changing his ways with “everything”.
Munster has a scatter-gun approach with his interviews. He changes direction with his words as quickly as he does on the field with his runs. There is deep meaning in them though.
A rough and tumble kid from the bush, he has learned that when you are in the public eye as an NRL player that not everyone is to be trusted and that the scrutiny is intense.
That is why he has toned back his “larrikin” ways and grown as a man.
“I am not as trusting as I was. I have a little group that I trust now and don’t talk willy-nilly about everything,” Munster said.
“That is something that I have really learned – that you can’t trust everyone. I have focussed on who my close friends are and [trust my] close family.
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“I have relaxed a little bit, taken a backward step and changed my ways on everything I’ve done. Being from a country town in Rockhampton you can get away with being a larrikin and a silly bugger, if you want to put it that way.
“I wasn’t aware of my surroundings when I was out and about. I didn’t really care. My mentality and attitude probably stunk, and that is something I have cleaned up.”
Munster said he was fully expecting to be shown the door at Melbourne when he was off the rails at the end of 2017.
“I was going to get sacked to be honest with you,” he said.
“I owe everything to Melbourne and that is the main reason why I decided to stay for the next four years.
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“I’m not going to sugar coat it. At the end of 2017 I was pretty much given the door, but 'Bellyache' showed faith in me and said ‘No, I want him. I like him and I want to keep him’. That is the main reason why I am still there and forever in his debt.”
It is Bellamy’s mentorship that Munster credits to his turnaround.
“Everyone calls him my dad which is pretty funny but he has pretty much been a dad to everyone at the Storm,” he said.
Match: Maroons v Blues
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Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
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“Not many people come from Melbourne who play footy from the Storm. They are from New Zealand, from Sydney and from Queensland.
“You’ve got to have that morale when you are away from home and he has got that great balance of bringing OK players and making them great players. I just love the way he goes about it all and I can’t thank him enough for what he has done for me.”
So much has Bellamy done for Munster that he was even touted as a possible candidate for the Maroons captaincy, an honour that was ultimately bestowed on his halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans who he will line up with in the Holden State of Origin series opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Munster said the Maroons hierarchy made the right choice.
“It's pretty much an honour to be named captain of a Queensland team. Not many people get to do it and we are proud of DCE,” Munster said.
“He is a good talker and he will lead the team around which we need from one of our halves and spine members. He will grow another leg with the ‘c’ next to his name. It's up to me and Ben Hunt to back him up.”
Munster is also looking forward to combining with fullback Kalyn Ponga down the left side in what looms as a potent attacking force.
His own mentor Billy Slater is in camp with the Maroons and assisting Ponga, as he did for Munster when he played fullback for the Storm when Slater was injured.
“He’s one of the best mentors you can have in that position. Billy will probably go down as an Immortal,” Munster said.
“He changed the fullback role and changed how fullbacks play. His positional play is the best I have ever seen and the video he does on everyone is just ridiculous.
"You won't get a better person to work with than Billy Slater, as he was for me personally. Billy will be able to give Kalyn wise words on how to deal with it.”