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Rogers: Origin debut, game on the line - living my backyard dream

An Origin debut with the game on the line - it's every kids' backyard fantasy.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, Maroons winger Mat Rogers found himself in that position. This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

'It's a dream to play in Origin where you can make a difference'

In game one of the 1999 series - my Origin debut - I strained my medial ligament and had to come off the field. The scoreline was close right the way through so I was devastated I was off - they're the ones you want to be out there for.

The Queensland doctor, Roy Saunders, examined me as Chris "Choppy" Close looked on as if to say, "Unless we've got to chop that leg off, you've got to get back on".

Origin rookie Mat Rogers in 1998.
Origin rookie Mat Rogers in 1998. ©NRL Photos

Roy said: "If you can handle it, get back out there."

I don't think [Sharks coach] Johnny Lang was that happy about it … but I did go back on and was able to play a vital role.

It was 8-8 so there wasn't a massive flow of points. I remember Laurie Daley and Brad Fittler both having shots at field goals and missing. We felt if we could get our nose in front we were a good chance of holding them out.

Full Match Replay: Maroons v Blues - Game 1, 1999

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Playing on the wing at the time, I didn't get the chance to kick too many field goals. But I was a winger who played all over the field so I found myself in position to land one.

Being out in the back line helped me because NSW were looking for one of our halves to have a shot. I ended up with it and over it went. It was always a dream to play in an Origin match where you could make a difference.

The media afterwards got to the point where it was just too much. I had to stop talking to people. It was that intense.

But it showed me what Origin meant to people.

I had played in the Super League Tri-Series in 1997 and the Anzac Test of 1998. That was the first unified team and a big moment for me. But I broke my hand and missed the 1998 Origin when all the Broncos boys were back.

When I played Origin in 1999 it felt like the best of the best. It felt like the first time I'd really played for Queensland in terms of Origin football. I scored all the points in the first two games but I was out injured for the last game.

Mat Rogers launches his shot at field goal.
Mat Rogers launches his shot at field goal. ©NRL Photos

I did my knee really badly in game two and completely ruptured my posterior cruciate, and was filthy that I couldn't play that third one. I was shattered.

I was overwhelmed by the whole experience of Origin, even in the lead-up. I remember sitting in my first Origin meeting with Choppy at the front saying how much we hate NSW.

He mentioned the passion that, he had and how, if he could, he'd put his boots on and get out there. That is something that I will never forget.

- as told to Joel Gould