We all looked up to the Queensland Maroons jersey, and some of us got the opportunity to play for Queensland in under 16s, under 18s and had no idea that very quickly, that was going to turn into a State of Origin jersey.
So, for me, to be selected in my first Origin was obviously my highlight.
To run out at the old Lang Park behind Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga was just amazing. These were guys that I looked up to, and everyone still does.
And just to run out onto Lang Park behind the king, that was amazing as well.
Back in the day, it was funny, you had to listen to ABC Radio. So you’d listen and you knew you were a chance of being picked, ‘cause I think there was a couple of injuries – I think Dale Shearer was out. I was still only a kid, so I got the call up on the bench.
You had to listen that afternoon ‘cause they would make an announcement and so we’d just sit on the radio.
I talk about it and I get goosebumps... as a young fellow, it was just amazing. You get a bit emotional, but you’re just so pumped.
And look, it was the same feeling when I got picked, I remember when I was picked in my first Queensland team at under 16. Your name is read out and it’s just like ‘wow!’, and obviously with Origin, same sort of thing.
I never, ever thought when I was 21 that I was going to be playing Origin.
We obviously had a lot of Queenslanders at our club the Broncos, so you heard all the stories and you just can’t wait to get into camp.
I still remember my first camp and running into everyone and they were all there and it was just good.
Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga and all those guys, it was just great, you know?
It was very different, ‘cause our coach back then was Graham Lowe, the Kiwi coach, and we ended up winning that series in ‘91 and he was a different coach, but a lot of the boys really responded to him.
I was lucky I went across a couple of eras, so I got to witness Wally Lewis driving the bus around Brisbane, there’s plenty of stories about that and just the fun that we had.
They were long camps back then and we couldn’t wait to get in and get the fitness test done and get our fittings and get out and do the XXXX promos.
There was a whole lot of Broncos in there in the teams, so I was very lucky, and obviously, having Wally there as well, ‘cause he was at the Broncos – so for me, it was work as usual and carry on as usual. Once again, you are wearing that Maroons jersey, so it was pretty special.
Just putting the tracksuit on, it was amazing.
You know it’s another level, especially coming into the game, you could feel the pressure, especially if you were here in Brisbane I felt.
We were still getting around Brisbane then and the pressure was really full on and you really felt that, different to a club game.
And then, when you get out there on the field, it just whacks, it hits you on the chest.
I remember walking out, the old Lang Park behind the king and I heard everyone talk about this and then when you witness it it’s ‘oh my god’, it’s just like you got stage fright, it’s like ‘woah’.
We didn’t run out, you know, the king walked out.
I had to come off the bench, at the time, you get a bit emotional to be honest and I was like ‘is this real?’.
We used to talk about it to the boys who had played and they said walking out on Lang Park is totally different to anywhere during an Origin. You walk out there and they said it really hits you and it does, the crowd is just like ‘ boom!’ – so for me, I was like ‘this is real’.
For my first touch, I think I got a ball off Stevey Walters – he was the hooker then and I came off the bench, so I only got a few minutes. But hey, I got a run in my first Origin and we got away with that game.
I didn’t play in the last two games, ‘cause Dale came back, but we ended up winning the series, so that was good! I was a part of that, I will take it!
My last game was in 1998 – we had the final game, we were coached by Wayne Bennett down in Sydney and that was very emotional.
In my mind, I hadn’t told anyone that was going to be my last rep match, and we won the series at SFS and had a bit of a cry and a bit of the tear for that ‘cause we hadn’t really done that well.
See, we missed out in ‘96, ‘97 due to Super League, so really only won the two series ... so to win that playing the full three games in ‘98, that was a bit emotional for me.
And coached by Wayne and we had a big year that year and captained by Alf Langer, so it was a bit of a thing and it was just really emotional ‘cause a couple of weeks later I announced I was retiring from rep footy, so for me, that was a good finish.
I didn’t even talk to Wayne about it, I went to him after ‘cause we came out to Brisbane and I just said to him, ‘look, I just want to focus the next couple of years on the Broncos'. So I pulled the pin. That was my last year with the Kangaroos as well.
So, it was a very emotional year.
I got the opportunity to play in 11 Origin games, and people say, ‘ I thought you played more’ and I said, ‘different things happen and I have played 11 Origins!’ You feel blessed. You are in an elite group.
It still amazes me that I sit over in a plaque on the concrete outside of Suncorp. You know what I mean? I never pictured myself there.
I had no expectations, it just happened, so for me, it is like, I have done something special!
Once you are there, you never took it for granted, that was another thing. When they selected teams ... I never took it for granted.
In ‘92, I still sat there nervous waiting for my name to be read out and people were like, ‘you’ll be right’, but no, you can’t do that, you just never know.
Early days were very different, we started, as I said, with Graham Lowe and I have had Fatty Vautin and Wally Lewis as coach, all very different, all very different.
And I think for the team we had in 1998, which had six, possibly more Broncos, we had our Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and that was probably the most I felt settled within the team.
We knew what Wayne was going to bring, but it was always good to have the experience from the other coaches, but it sort of reinforced when we won that 1998 series that Wayne had a lot to do with that, so we were a lot more settled with him.
They just have to make the most of it. You get your opportunity. As they say, one Origin is better than none, but that one Origin could be your last, you just don’t know what is going to happen, you just have to make the most of it.
If I can mention one thing about Origin, I always get asked about what the 1980 match meant to Queensland... it didn’t just mean a lot to Queensland rugby league, it changed the face of all Queensland sport.
So, everyone now who plays – it doesn’t matter what sport it is, Little Athletics even – when you get picked for Queensland, it is always them versus us and we are going out there with the maroon.
Big Artie, that’s what I mean, that changed the face of Queensland sport across the board.