Playing for Queensland was a wonderful experience, a lifelong dream.
My first experience of Origin was as a 12-year-old, because I was in the Queensland under 12 schoolboys side and we were guests of honour at the 1981 game at Lang Park and we were inside the signage of it; and ever since that moment, Origin had a special meaning to me.
Certainly, every Queensland kid that plays rugby league will certainly have the same desire and, in that moment, I wanted to play for Queensland.
It’s a bit of story actually when I made my Maroons debut, I didn’t know I was picked.
My neighbour when I was in Sydney heard it on the radio and he had to come over and tell me I was picked and he was just as proud for me as I was.
Obviously, once I found out I was picked, mum and dad were the first two people who got the call and they were extremely proud of the achievement and so was I.
I guess it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe to anyone, you have to experience it to know what it means to put on that Maroons jersey and I had wanted to do it from a very young age.
I finally got the opportunity to do it and it still holds special meaning to me, Queensland, as for all Queenslanders – it’s a very proud time in my footy career and one that I still reflect on.
My little town Baralaba, it’s only got 140 people in it and they were all extremely proud - my family, friends, and I guess too the responsibilities of wearing that jersey then come into play, and I guess the added pressure, there was so much media coverage on Origin from what it was back in the ‘80s, you had all the footy shows and the rugby league papers and the newspapers and you just knew when you were playing that someone in America or one of your mates.
Someone was watching it, so you couldn’t hide from that. But that sense of pride, you just wanted to play well for Queensland and your mates.
You got this opportunity, so I didn’t want to let myself down, my family, my mates, the state.
Queensland had faith in me, so I had to repay it to them.Jason Hetherington FOG #106
Queensland crowds were the best crowds to play in front of.
We were going through the revamp of Suncorp, so we were playing out at ANZ / QE2 and got some wonderful crowds, 55-60,000.
And Origin has its own special feel to it, again it’s hard to describe running out there in front of them for the first time.
My first time was in NSW, running out there was just amazing – I’m getting goosebumps now thinking about it.
The Queensland supporters are certainly very, very loyal, which is great. They get right behind the Queensland side, that’s a given, they’ll just do that.
It makes you extremely proud to be part of it and be able to run out, and hopefully that night when you run out you are able to do a job for the supporters, ‘cause you know they are right behind you.
I sort of had my own little preparations and that, but just looking around the dressing sheds before you ran out and you see Kevie, you see Alf; these guys are sitting in the same room as me, Wayne’s coaching and I am wearing a Queensland jersey with them – and that was just a very, very special moment to be a part of that and to get the win, that was even more special.
And it was a tight one, right on the bell and Locky had to bang the kick over and I might be wrong, but Locky and I debuted the same night ... there you go, there’s a real special one I can tell my kids and grandkids, but just looking around the room to see Gordy and Alf and Kevie and these guys, it was a real special moment and it was a moment there I didn’t want to let those guys down.
And Wayne was walking around the room and I didn’t want to let Wayne down and again, I can still remember it like it was yesterday, special times playing for Queensland.
One thing I would like Queensland fans to know – and I guess the country people would understand it – but as a kid, as a six-year-old, I was travelling for eight hours on a Saturday to play a game for 30 minutes, 20 minutes, and then get in a car to go four hours back home.
I did that for the first 13 years of my career.
Those sacrifices ... that’s why I was so proud to tell mum and dad that I got in the Queensland side, ‘cause of the amount of sacrifices they had to make to support me to get there.
I am coaching the women’s team now and I try to teach them the responsibilities that come along with wearing the Maroons jersey.
These girls also grew up – girls like Steph Hancock – grew up watching her dad play in the very first game, so they have grown up watching Queensland play and it means a lot to them.
The men’s game has really set a strong platform for the women’s game and the girls admire the guys’ game as well, so when they were watching the men’s game as little fellas, they didn’t want the men losing, so they have their chance now to wear the jersey and go out and do what they were watching as kids growing up.
They are a great bunch of girls, they are easy to coach, they are really buying into what I and the coaching staff are trying to introduce to them.
It’s not just about pulling on the Maroons jersey and going on and competing and coming home. There’s a lot of responsibilities that come and we have worked hard on what it means to wear that jersey.