Matt Gillett - Gillo - has been a model player and very professional about everything he's been involved with in the game. He has been an exceptional player and is more importantly, a great Queenslander who never let his state down.
Matt is your typical rugby league player. He's one of those guys with a team-first mentality. Players enjoyed playing with him - they wanted him in the side.
He's got a beautiful family - his wife Skye and kids Harper and Hunter. They are his biggest supporters along with his parents and brothers.
He was always a pleasure to coach in my time at the Brisbane Broncos and also with the Queensland Maroons. He's one of those players that coaches love to have in their side. He was always leading the way at training with his effort and attitude.
Game day he really excelled and you always knew he was going to give his best every time he went on the field. He prided himself on not letting his team mates down.
I first noticed Matt when he burst onto the scene for the Broncos in Round 1 of the 2010 NRL season, in the opening match against the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium. He came off the interchange bench that day and scored a try on debut.
When I first saw him, I thought 'who is this kid?' He runs a bit awkwardly, a lot like a baby giraffe. From his first game in the NRL, you could see Gillo was obviously quite talented and that he had a good turn of speed for a big man.
It was 2012 when I was first introduced to him in Game I of the State of Origin series. His debut for the Maroons was in Melbourne at Docklands Stadium. The Queensland boys won on that night with Matt again coming of the bench.
I particularly remember Matt's effort through the 2016 State of Origin series. It was my first as head coach. He had a great series that year for us - that's when he was at the peak of his powers.
He was a tremendous player with or without the ball. Very reliable and very influential. His consistency and toughness were two traits that helped him along his career path in rugby league.
I know he played a few positions at the Broncos in the early days - from front row, to back row, to lock, to centre, to wing and maybe even a bit of fullback. In the early part of his career, he was very versatile. But as he got to know himself and where he was most damaging, he moved into the back row and played for Australia in that position. He developed into the best back rower in the game.
I was very fortunate for him to be part of our Origin team and to be able to work with him.
He always put in a lot of effort and had tremendous pride in the Maroons jersey - making his family proud, making all Queenslanders proud with what he did on the field.
He's got the perfect mindset around how to be a great Origin player and he got it right. Being a great Origin player has never been about talent - it’s been about effort. I'm just extremely proud of Matt.
I was very pleased he got his 20th game up this year - he fought back really hard from the neck injury he suffered in 2018 whilst playing for the Broncos. He played in two games in the 2019 series which earned him the right for the FOGS Dick 'Tosser' Turner Medal - an award which recognises 20 Origin games for Queensland. I know he's really proud of the medal and he should be. There were tears that night as well, when he was presented with the medal. I was happy for him to come back and get that reward because he's been a tremendous player for Queensland in the last decade.
I'm sure over time he'll look back on his career very fondly.
The football gods work in funny ways. Not too many get to scale the heights that he did, from a Broncos point of view, playing 200 games, then for Queensland, 20 games. You can add to that 12 internationals for Australia including winning a World Cup in 2017 on home soil at Suncorp Stadium.
It's certainly a playing career to be very proud of and one he's worked really hard for. Ability and talent will get you so far, but hard work gets you a lot further and that's what he epitomised more than anything throughout his playing days. A team-first mentality.
I congratulate him on his career - he's been a magnificent ambassador for the game. Always showing a professional and positive attitude to training and playing.
I can assure you his team mates - whether it be Broncos, Queensland or Australia - loved having him in their team, coaches adored his 'never give up' attitude and the fans, well they loved the baby giraffe as well.
Thanks for the memories Gillo.