Being a Queenslander is an honour. There’s a very proud heritage with a lot of history in the game.
Watching State of Origin as a little kid at home, with mum and dad, on Wednesdays when it would come around, we would always be in front of the TV, idolising some of the blokes that I have ended up playing alongside.
So I really pinch myself every now and then when I get to watch Origin, especially replays, watching how hard some of the players played, just watching some of the greats that coach us, especially in camp, really embracing it and really enjoying the bunch of boys that I get to play alongside.
It was a proud moment to put on the Queensland Maroons jersey for the first time at Suncorp. There’s no better feeling.
Funny enough, I was a Broncos supporter growing up, so I was a mad Darren Lockyer fan. The way he played fullback and five-eighth.
I always talk about how he transitioned but just the way he summed things up, especially in big games – he was a big game player and that’s something I really admired.
He’s a real humble bloke. I’ve met him a fair few times now, but still get star struck every time I see him. To see how humble and quietly spoken he is, and just the way he goes about his thing, is really inspiring for me.
Hopefully I can play somewhat as good as him, but I know there won’t be someone like him for a while.
Getting my first call up for Queensland in 2017, I was really excited obviously.
Milford played the first game and then JT came back and did his shoulder and Milford had some problems with his shoulder as well, so I ended up getting my call and I was fortunate enough to play alongside some of the greatest ever to play the game in Cooper and Billy and Smithy.
I obviously played club footy with them, so I felt they obviously thought it was a bit of a combination thing and thought I would best fit playing alongside them since I played with them at club.
It ended up going the way we wanted it to go and we ended up sending JT out as a winner – that’s what he’s always been, a winner.
Just to rub shoulders with the greats of the game in the biggest games of my career has given me a lot of memories. It’s something I’ll never forget.
Coming into camp before that game, I just remember rocking up as a young fella and hearing Moose and hearing all the fellas carrying on, and just hearing how close everyone was together even though they’re at different clubs, and how much they got along. It might have been six to eight months, they might not have seen each other, and then they’re best mates again.
That’s something I really take out of Origin, how close the bond is between players in this great state of Queensland.
Obviously we will try and keep that legacy going with everyone - with new faces and old faces. I’m really embracing it, being so lucky to be in such a great spot.
Running out in the Maroons jersey for the first time was a bit of a different feeling.
I talked to Bill, Coops, Smithy, JT and they all said ‘the bigger the occasion, the simpler the game plan’. Not to change too much of my game.
I took that on board and I think I ran a fair few times in the game and I obviously got lucky with some of the try assists, some of the balls that came up throughout.
You’ve got to make those moments and I was fortunate enough to hold the shield for the first time on my debut and that’s something I will never forget, especially being at Suncorp.
My cousin Darren, who is pretty much a brother to me, got me into footy. He played footy – he was a little bit older than me, maybe 10 years, and we always played footy in the backyard.
He asked my mum if I could play footy and she said ‘nah, it’s too rough of a sport’, so I played cricket and soccer but eventually she gave in when I was nine years old.
I ended up playing for junior club Norths Knights and they eventually go up to Norths Chargers. I played all my junior footy through them with my mates.
I obviously didn’t grow and mature until I was 18 and I ended up blossoming from there until now.
If I thought about it back in the day, I probably should’ve taken a different sporting route but I guess I chose rugby league because all my mates played and I love playing with my mates.
Now, I have a really special bond with Dylan Napa. He is probably the most funny, humble guy you’ll ever meet. We always call each other and have a bit of a yarn.
We’re still pretty young in the head and still have a laugh and joke about things.
He’s someone I will always talk to about stuff. We’re pretty open with and close to each other. He’s someone I’m really fond of and really connected with.
He’s a great player and I love seeing him in camp when we both get the chance to be in camp.
He’s an open book and he’ll say whatever is at the top of his lungs. He’s ‘do or die’ for the boys and he does everything he can, never wanting to let anyone down, off field as well.
He’s always got everyone’s back and is willing to stand up for you, even if you’re in the wrong, he’ll always have your back.
Dylan Napa is just one of them guys you want to be friends with and you want to play alongside. He’s someone that every time I see him, I always laugh before I say anything to him because he’s just a funny man.
All the boys are pretty cool. I still do get a bit starstruck in camp but for me, I try and talk a lot and that calms me down a bit more.
I played pretty much all my junior footy with Corey Oates. We made a representative side in Under 11s for Capricornia with Corey. He was a border at St Brendan’s and he used to come over a fair bit and stay at my house.
Sometimes we gave him a bit of stick because he was so tall he couldn’t fit through the doors, he had to duck. It’s crazy how things turn out. He’s playing some decent footy for the Broncos.
When he debuted for Queensland and the Broncs, I remember I was at home in Rocky and he was playing in Brissie, and I watched him play on the wing and score tries, and I was like ‘wow, who would’ve thought?’
I was very proud of him, coming from Central Queensland. Now we play alongside each other and against each other.
I’m still a bit filthy at him, to be honest, for breaking my jaw in 2017. My talking is a little bit different now, so I’m not really happy with him about that.
I owe him one and hopefully I can get him one. I’m not happy about it. He sent me a message afterwards, wishing me all the best, but I reckon he was after me. He was definitely after me. He just seen an easy target, running the ball.
On a more serious note, every time I play and put the Maroons jersey on, I am inspired by the passion and pride fans – you - have for it.
Win, lose or draw, you’re they’re always turning up, always willing to give us guys a chance, even though we might not have a chance.
With that saying ‘it’s not over until the fat lady sings’ – you’re always there, hooting for us even if we’re 10 down with 10 to go.
A great example was against the Blues in Sydney last year in the decider. We were down and out and obviously Queensland fans got behind us and got vocal and we almost ended up pulling ourselves out of it.
But genuinely, what I want to say is thank you so much for sticking by us for so many years.
I know we’ve had a great dynasty with some great players but obviously now with the 2-nil trot, stick by us and it’ll change very quickly.
The future for Queensland is looking bright with all the talent we have.
We’ve got a good, young forward pack and got a lot of headaches in the halves.
We’ve got Val coming back from America, so he’s another asset for us as well.
KP has got another year of pre-season and more experience as well. The way he played in our first game was outstanding and he’s just got more to show, more talent to show, and with another year under his belt he’ll be better for it, like myself.
It’s funny, if some young kid comes up to me and says ‘I love you as a player’, it gives me little butterflies in my stomach because obviously I was a young kid like that, so I try and give as much time as I can to the kids.
When I was a kid I know I was always a bit of a hassler, trying to get something signed. I know when kids idolise someone they want something signed, so I’m always more than happy to do it. Like I said, I was in that spot when I was a kid so it gives me a bit of joy.
Hopefully I can be a better role model now. I do realise now I am a role model, even though sometimes I don’t think it.
Sometimes I need to be a bit better and obviously off field I have been good and enjoying it.
Hopefully I can be a lot more of a leader in the next couple of years.
To New South Wales fans, don’t get too comfortable because things can change very quickly.