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Foggy memories: Try-scoring machine Rowdy still 'right to go'

If Kevin Walters called Dale Shearer tomorrow and asked him to get ready for a Maroons come back, he would.

"I still stir them up. I rang Kevie a couple of years ago and turned up at training down on the Gold Coast with my boots," Shearer, now 54, joked.

"Someone was injured and I said 'I’m right to go'.

"I still train every morning for two hours. I’m fighting fit and ready to roll."

Few footballers have epitomised what makes Origin football unique like Shearer. In the best-against-the-best contests, he was at his best.

From his debut in 1985 until his final game in 1996, he was a must-pick for Queensland and only missed games due to injuries.

Shearer played the first of his 26 Origin games in 1985, but reckoned he was ready a season earlier.

"I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a run the year before. I was only 18, but I was playing well for North Queensland Marlins against guys like Mal Meninga and Wally Lewis in the State Cup," Shearer said.

"The following year, I got off to a flying start at Manly and went straight into A Grade, and I did get picked for Queensland.

"Being a country boy, I got interviewed for the first time on a TV camera. I stumbled and stammered my way through it.

"They said to me 'don’t worry mate, we’ll edit it and put the good bits in so just keep an eye on it tonight'.

"At six o’clock, I watched the news and didn’t see a thing about it. I obviously didn’t come across too good."

Shearer came across just fine when it counted for the Maroons.

In one purple patch from 1985 to 1987, he scored eight Origin tries in eight games, including one sequence of a try in six consecutive matches. He was a try scoring machine and it didn’t matter whether he was playing for glamour clubs like Manly and Brisbane, or battling outfits such as the Gold Coast or Crushers. Shearer, in a Maroon jersey, was always a Ferrari.

He missed the 1988 and 1994 series and two games of the 1995 series respectively with a broken jaw, rotator cuff and fractured hip injuries.

"Without those injuries, I would have played 30 Origin games easily," Shearer said.

He can still recall his first game at Lang Park in 1985 like it was yesterday.

"I'll never forget the first time I ran out," Shearer said.

"It is hard to explain, but as you take each step - left and right - you hear the crowd, but when you put each foot on the ground it is silent, which it wasn’t of course, but that was the feeling. Running out it was like you were cupping your ears, on and off, as you took each step."

Shearer held the all-time Origin try scoring record, with 12 tries, for the best part of two decades until Greg Inglis overtook him in 2012.

So what was the secret to his try scoring ways?

"It was definitely speed," he said. "I can’t remember ever being caught, even right up to my last game for the Cowboys [in 1998].

"I loved to be around the ball too. I’d hang off Peter Jackson and I did a run-around with Wally (Lewis) once and scored under the posts.

"Bob Fulton at Manly always gave me the luxury to go wherever I wanted to go. I was wing at the start at Manly, but I always felt like I should have been five-eighth."

Dale Shearer, Lang Park favourite

Of all the tries he scored the one in Wally Lewis’s  final Origin match in 1991 will always be a favourite. NSW had the lead 12-8 when Shearer got the ball. With spiders on him, he deceived the NSW defence as he dummied his way over wide out. Mal Meninga landed the conversion.

"Graham Lowe was our coach and he had been the coach when I left Manly and he wouldn’t pick me in the starting side, so I ended up on the bench," Shearer chuckled.

"I was jumping up and down for 60-odd minutes saying ‘get me on the field’. I was on the field for a minute and scored over in the left hand corner and that won us the game and the series."   

In 1989, Shearer played his part in a memorable 16-12 win in Game II where the Maroons were left with just 11 men on the field.

Allan Langer was one of the casualties with a broken leg. Shearer asked Arthur Beetson if he could fill-in at halfback in the third game of the series.

In hindsight, he wished he had because it would have given him the "complete set" in the backline of playing fullback, wing, centre, five-eighth and half at Origin level.

"I put my hand up to play halfback in the next Origin. I remember thinking 'just let me get in there', but they went with Michael Hagan and I stayed in the centres,” Shearer grinned.

"It would have been good. I know I am the only player to play in the one, two, three, four, five and six jersey for Queensland, but it would have been nice to wear the seven.

"If Mal hadn’t also got injured in that game they might have given me a shot."

There were plenty of memorable Origin moments, but one in particular was getting the young Maroons off to a winning start in the 1995 Origin series under coach Paul Vautin. Queensland won the opening match two-nil and while it was the only game Shearer played that year due to injury, it was crucial.

Paul 'Fatty' Vautin and Dale Shearer. Photo: supplied
Paul 'Fatty' Vautin and Dale Shearer. Photo: supplied

"In 1995, we were a bunch of 'Neville Nobodies', but quietly confident. I liked to have a punt in those days and I think we had an 18 and a half points start… so they were meant to give us a hiding. Being written off brought us all together," Shearer said.

"I played five-eighth and I was just there to steer them around the park and Fatty said it was one of the better games I’ve ever had. I didn’t think so, but he was happy and that was the main thing."

Shearer played his last Origin game the following year at the age of 30.

He was playing some outstanding football at the Roosters under Phil Gould and would have played in the 1997 Origin series, except for a broken wrist the week before the first game of the series.

Shearer these days lives on the Sunshine Coast. He recently launched his Red Emu wine label and is in negotiations to get his wines into big chains and on airlines.

"I have also got my real estate licence and I am just starting to work on that again. What I want to really get back into is property development," Shearer said.

"It is something I enjoy, the development side of it, and the sales and marketing as well."

The man known as Rowdy has always been good at marketing his wares. The Maroons were the beneficiaries on the field that’s for sure.

One thing you can be also sure of is that if Walters needs a halfback for the upcoming series he will know who to call.

"Or a five-eighth, a fullback, centre or a winger. I can play anywhere," Shearer chuckled.

"You’ve got to be in it to win it."

It is fitting that he is still playing, albeit on social media. There is a Twitter accouont called 'Dale Shearer Hourly' that appears every hour with Shearer on the charge with the caption 'here comes Rowdy'.

"My son showed me that about nine months ago and I thought 'what the hell is that?' I’m not on Twitter mate," Shearer chuckled.