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Foggy memories: Tate recalls ‘out of body’ debut

Brent Tate remembers his out of body experience on debut for Queensland in 2002 as vividly as it was yesterday.

His tears of relief and joy a decade later after being recalled to the side, after three years in the State of Origin wilderness due to cruel injuries, remain a cherished memory.

Those tears reflect the 38-year-old’s rollercoaster 23-game Origin career as one that epitomised triumph over adversity.

In the contest of Maroons history there was no greater triumph than when Tate slammed the ball down over the try line for one of the great Origin tries in the 2006 decider, a night where he knew he finally belonged in the game’s toughest arena.

It all started in another decider, at Stadium Australia in 2002 when the then Brisbane Broncos centre had his own unique spiritual experience. It was as though he had attained rugby league’s version of Nirvana.

“I had a real moment when I ran out on the field for Queensland for the first time, one of my few vivid memories of playing football," Tate said.

"I got the call from Wayne Bennett to come on in the second half and I remember taking the interchange card, handing it to the official on the sideline and when I went on the field everything went eerily quiet.

"It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I remember looking down at my boots, looking down at my socks and my shorts…then looking at my jersey. It felt like it went for ages even though it only went for a few seconds.

Brent Tate

"Then I looked towards the field and saw that wall of maroon and I thought 'holy shit I am playing State of Origin football'. That was when it hit me, right at that moment."

Tate was on the field when Dane Carlaw scored at the death to secure an 18-18 draw and ensure the Origin shield remained with the Maroons.

He recalled doing "a fist pump to the crowd" in a moment that was, and remains, "a bit of a blur".

Tate’s elevation to the Queensland side had an eeriness to it in itself.

He recalled getting a call from Maroons selector Gene Miles that he was in the team, but was not counting his chickens about joining his long-time hero Allan Langer in camp.

"Obviously you always hear about the gee-ups that go on so when I got the call I was excited but I didn’t want to get too carried away because there were a lot of pranksters at the Broncs with guys like Gordie Tallis around," Tate chuckled.

"As pumped as I wanted to be, I still I wasn’t sure if it was real or not. So once I got into camp it was surreal to be honest because you grow up as a kid dreaming about it.”

Four years later, when Tate headed to Melbourne in 2006 for the decider, the Maroons were not in the midst of a dream run. Far from it.

By that stage Tate had only enjoyed two wins in his first eight Origin games.

New South Wales had won three series in a row and when Eric Grothe scored a controversial try in the second half in Melbourne to give NSW a 14-4 lead the Origin careers of several high profile Queenslanders, including Darren Lockyer, Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva, were on the line.

"I gave us no chance at that point. I remember going behind the try line when Eric Grothe scored and the wheels had fallen off," Tate recalled.

"Everyone was blowing up and yelling and screaming but it was Locky that got everyone focused. I remember him saying 'boys, we’ve just got to stick to the plan because we’ve still got time'."

The Maroons still trailed by 10 points in the 71st minute when, on his own 20-metre line, Johnathan Thurston wrong-footed Luke O’Donnell, galloped away and threw a perfect left to right pass onto the chest of a flying Tate to score.

"I’ll never forget Johnno getting that ball, showing and going and me sticking my hand up and calling for it," Tate said.

"At full tilt he delivered the most inch-perfect pass. I was in full flight, didn’t have to alter my stride and I remember just backing myself. I remember slamming the ball down when I scored. That was a moment where I said 'I’m here'.

"That was probably the first night I felt like I belonged in the Origin arena. It was probably my favourite night of football ever to be honest, just because of what was on the line.

"We were staring down the barrel of four series losses in a row and everyone knows that guys like Pricey had been told they’d never play again if we lost."

The Maroons still trailed after Tate's try but when Lockyer swooped on a loose Brett Hodgson pass on script the Queenslanders had won the series and set themselves on a path that would result in a record eight series wins in a row.

Tate played all six games of the winning 2007 and 2008 series before two ACL ruptures, and Queensland’s continued dominance, kept him out of the Origin arena for the next three seasons.

Tate in 2007. Photo: NRL Images
Tate in 2007. Photo: NRL Images

"I had some really tough days in those times and big back-to-back injuries in those three years, but one of the big things that kept me going in those dark years was the thought of putting that Maroons jersey back on… or just the hope that I could have another crack at it," Tate said.

"When I got the call that I had been named in the team again in 2012 I sat down and cried. I’d just got off the plane from a Cowboys game in Sydney and there was a message from Parry [Peter Parr]. I listened to it and cried.

"When I walked back through the doors and into camp in 2012 it was exactly the same as I left it in 2008. It was dead set like I’d left yesterday."

Tate was back and back to stay.

In the decider in 2013 Tate was the man of the match in a 12-10 victory in Sydney and joined Mal Meninga in the post-match press conference proud as punch after one of the best defensive performances of his career

"The back end of my Origin career was definitely better than the start. I played a lot better as I got older and got more experience," Tate said.

"The years I had out made me never want to take for granted playing in that jersey which is why I loved it so much and performed in it, because I knew it could be taken away from me so easily.

"That night was really special. I knew they would come at us and I thought 'you are playing for Queensland. You’ve got a job to do so just do it'.

"I think that night Nate Myles probably deserved man of the match after an enormous game but there were other nights I thought I might have deserved it so you take them when you can get them."

Tate’s final game of rugby league was in game two of the 2014 Origin series when he ruptured his ACL for a fourth time. He looks back on that last hurrah as a moment to savour rather than one to regret.

'Proud my last game was in maroon' - Brent Tate

"I always say to people, and when I give talks, that I didn’t get the fairytale finish that I wanted but why I can sleep at night is that my last ever game was in an Origin jersey…a jersey that I loved, cherished and respected," Tate said.

"That rests easy with me, just knowing that I finished at the top and in that jersey."

Post-career Tate worked for the North Queensland Cowboys in the commercial department and has been a valued mentor to the young Maroons emerging players. He has since taken the leap into a new role.

"I am working for Westfund Health Insurance where I am national manager of new business and client relationships. I wanted to do something completely different and there is no time like the present," Tate said.

"It has been a really steep learning curve but it has been awesome. I am really glad that I had the guts to do it

"I still do some work with Fox and on the radio with Crocmedia’s NRL Nation which is good because it keeps me in and around the game. It is a connection I never want to lose."

And one of the proudest connections Tate will never lose is the one he shares with the legendary Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner, the Maroons Godfather.

Tate played with the Redcliffe Dolphins, where Turner also played, coached and was club president. When Tate reached his 20-game milestone with the Maroons he was presented with the FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal. 

"That was one of the big driving factors through my injuries, that I wanted that medal," Tate said.

"We were all really aware of Tosser’s great history and when Mal brought him back in 2006 it was something special. To get that medal was a really special moment in my career."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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