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As the son of a New South Wales legend, Mat Rogers was always going to cop plenty of flak for electing to play for Queensland.

Looking back, the 44-year-old dual-international has no doubt it was the right decision.

After a phone call from Wayne Bennett in 1997 and the tick of approval from Mat's late father Steve Rogers, his mind was made up.

Rogers was born in NSW but moved to Queensland with his family when he was a youth. His famous father Steve was born on the Gold Coast and played his first senior football in Queensland but played all his representative football for NSW, including the inaugural State of Origin game in 1980, after a stellar career with Cronulla and St George.

Mat first played for Queensland at the highest level on the wing in the 1997 State of Origin Tri-Series during the Super League war, a decision that created quite a stir at the time but that made perfect sense considering his history.

"What a lot of people don’t realise is that both my mum and dad were born in Queensland," Rogers said.

"My mum was one of 13 kids, Gold Coast born and bred, so I have got about 400 cousins running around the Gold Coast. I moved back here when I was 10 years old after dad retired.

"I played for Queensland in the under 12s, under 15s and open schoolboy level and I always considered myself a Queenslander.

"When I announced I was going to play for Queensland it was a tough time. I copped a lot of heat at the time from teammates, the club and from fans.

"They were filthy that I decided to play for Queensland."

Mat Rogers. Photo: QRL
Mat Rogers. Photo: QRL

Rogers revealed that 1997 Queensland Super League coach Wayne Bennett started the ball rolling.

"Wayne rang me ahead of selection of the Queensland side during Super League and said 'who are you going to play for?' and I had resigned myself to having to play for NSW because that is where I had played my first senior football," Rogers grinned.

"That being the case, my dad should have played for Queensland no question about it. Wayne said to me that I didn’t have to play for NSW and that I could play for Queensland if I choose to.

"And then he said 'and if you choose to I will pick you right now, but ring your dad and make sure he is OK with it', which was nice of him. He didn’t put any pressure on me."

Mat did exactly that and got the green light.

"I said 'dad, Wayne Bennett has rung me and said he wants to pick me for Queensland’. I then told him that I did want to play Origin,” Rogers recalled.

"Dad said ‘well why would you play for NSW now when you haven’t played for them your whole life. Your mum will be wrapped and your cousins will be wrapped'.  

"I rang Wayne back and I said 'I’m all in'.”

Rogers played three Super League ‘Origin’ games for Queensland, which statistically still don’t count officially. Rogers, like all Queenslanders that played in that series, begs to differ.

"People say they don’t count but I would argue that point. I felt every hit, I can assure you of that," Rogers said.

"You look at the lineups in 1997 and it boggles the mind."

Rogers played three games in that series. Queensland lost the first game of the series and lost the final to NSW in a golden point thriller. Rogers had an off night on debut, a performance he said probably cost him an Australian jumper that year, with Ken Nagas getting the nod.

The next year the game was reunited and Rogers made his Test debut in the Anzac Day Test. He broke his hand and subsequently missed the 1998 Origin series, which Queensland won.

"That shattered me. Being picked in the first Australian side after reunification in 1998 meant the world to me," Rogers said.

"Bob Fulton was the coach and a great mate of my dad’s and I got to play with Laurie Daley. Glenn Lazarus and Paul Harragon were our front-rowers and Terry Hill was my centre partner.

"To get injured in that Test and miss Origin, I was devastated."

Rogers finally got to play for the Maroons in an official Origin match in 1999 in Game I when Mark Murray had taken over as coach.

It was a memorable occasion with Rogers landing four from four and slotting the winning field goal to give Queensland a 9-8 win.

"I also spilled the ball over the line in that game so it could have been more points,” Rogers recalled.

"Darren Smith was my roommate that campaign. He was the old head and I was the new kid to Origin. He was just great for me, just showing me the ropes and making me understand what Origin is all about, and such a gentleman.

"In the lead up to the first game he kept telling me that Origin was different. I asked him why. He said 'you’ve got the best 34 players in the world with a week to freshen up and put their best foot forward in this environment…and you have to be ready'.

"I still remember him telling me that and I thought he was so right. It was the best of the best on the biggest stage.

"They sat me in the front seat of the bus as we went down Caxton Street and it was one of the most special moments of my life."

Ready he was. Rogers showed great fight in the match. He strained his medial ligament and was forced off the field, but went back on.

Rogers in action. Photo: QRL
Rogers in action. Photo: QRL

Team manager Chris Close came up with one of his golden quotes when he examined the injury and said that "unless we've got to chop that leg off you've got to go back on".

At 8-8 someone needed to step up, and Rogers was the man.

"There had been no talk during the week about me taking field goals but I was coming in to do the long kicks," Rogers recalled.

"I used to kick a lot of field goals in my schoolboy rugby union days so after they missed a few shots I pushed into centre field to have a crack."

Hooker Jason Hetherington caught sight of Rogers and the shot was on.

"He gave me a look as if to say 'be ready' and I slotted it," Rogers said. 

"It made for a pretty wild next week. I got sick of hearing my own name but it was special to be able do that to win a game for Queensland."

Rogers ruptured his PCL in the second Origin of 1999, which NSW won, and missed the decider. The Maroons drew 10-10 and retained the shield as they had won the 1998 series.

Rogers' field goal in the opening match of the series had proven decisive.

"I've never experienced anything like that Queensland Origin feel. You just don't get that passion and pride anywhere," Rogers said.

"I remember my first team meeting when Choppy Close got all the boys in.

"I was sitting at the front of the room and you can just feel his love for the Queensland jersey and hatred for NSW.

"I thought 'my dad was one of those NSW guys and I really love that bloke'. It was a bizarre feeling, but I learned to hate them don't worry about that."

The 2000 series was Rogers' last in a Maroons jersey, won 3-0 by NSW. The first two matches of the series were close before Queensland lost the final game 56-16.

"There was no lack of effort or pride in the jersey but the class of NSW just came to the fore in that game," Rogers recalled.

Rogers, who played 11 Tests for the Kangaroos, had a shoulder injury in 2001 and then embarked on a stellar rugby union career with the Waratahs and Wallabies in 2002.

He returned to league with the Titans in 2007 and was playing outstanding football in the centres. He had played so much representative football and travelled far and wide with rugby union.

He was close to Maroons selection on several occasions.

"That first year back in the NRL was hard. It was a shock to the system," Rogers said.

"I remember my wife said to me 'if you put your hand up and they pick you…you aren't 26 anymore. The Titans put a lot of faith in you to get you back here. Are you going to let them down?'.

"Choppy was at the Titans at the time and asked if I would play if I got picked, but I decided I'd played enough rep footy and wanted to put my energy into the Titans.

"If Mal [Meninga] had called me and said that he really wanted me to play, I'm sure he would have swayed me."

Rogers officially retired at the end of 2010 but came back the following year for one final NRL game when the Titans were in dire straits with injury. He finished with 200 NRL games for Cronulla and Gold Coast.

Now at home on the Gold Coast, the dual-international is set to embark on an exciting new chapter in his career as a player manager with Rogers Sports Management.

It is a career change that Rogers has been considering for several years, and now he has the right people on board to assemble a new management group which will focus on providing professional advice with each player’s long-term welfare the focus, rather than short-term monetary gain.

"We are going to do things differently," Rogers said.

"I was getting frustrated towards the end of my career about some of the advice my teammates were receiving. Then they’d come to me for advice.

"All we need now is to get our accreditation from the NRL, which they do in blocks. We have all the information ready to go and we’d like to get it all sorted as soon as we can.

"I bring a unique perspective. I have lived the game since I was four years old and had a career in professional league and union. It is certainly not foreign to me that is for sure.

"I want to work with the league and the clubs to benefit the game. I intend to show that player management can be done with integrity, and done well."

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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