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Williams remembers an Origin debut that had everything

Like most Queensland Maroons fans, Ty Williams was cheering when Matt Bowen plucked the ball from air to take a match-winning intercept on his way to scoring one of the more memorable State of Origin tries.

Unlike the rest of us, Williams was there when it happened, playing in his Queensland Maroons debut.

“Game I in 2005 had a lot of memorable moments for Origin,” Williams, who is one of the players eligible to be selected for the Deadly Maroons Indigenous State of Origin team of the first 40 years, said.

“I was fortunate enough to score the first try, that was the game that Carl Webb and Bull (Luke) Bailey, go to and from off the tap and that was a bit intimidating, so we were watching them two bash each other and also Matty Bowen scoring the intercept in extra time – so that was a peak and trough game, but emotionally that was exciting.”

From his home in North Queensland, Williams looks back on his Origin experience which saw him play in three matches for his state fondly.

“It was pretty surreal, just due to the fact that I came off a bit of a knee injury, I had only played two games pre-Origin selection against Parramatta and the Broncos,” Williams said of his initial selection in the side.

“I started the season really well, but thought I might have dashed my changes obviously with getting injured, but I came back and hit some form straight away; and to get the phone call on a Sunday night to say you got selected was pretty impressive.

“Obviously (selector) Dessy Morris made the phone call, but I thought it was a gee-up at the start, I didn’t sleep much that Sunday night and I was excited to get into camp on Monday night.

“I think that was probably the biggest thing, I wasn’t initially picked in the Origin squad in the start of the year so I was a bit of a left-field selection, not only to myself, but to everyone involved.

“(Heading into camp) wasn’t intimidating, I was probably more nervous, but the first day that I walked in there, you just felt comfortable straight away and everyone got you on board and you were surrounded by the likes of Pet (Civoniceva) and Locky (Darren Lockyer) and that, so that was comforting and pretty exciting.”

For Williams, his debut was also his first experience of a live Origin game and he soaked up every thrilling moment of a game that had everything - with the golden point thriller which saw Queensland clinch a 24-20 win still a much-talked about game today.

“That was pretty crazy because I had never been to an Origin game, my first Origin experience was actually playing it, so it was a good feeling,” Williams said.

“We didn’t warm up out on the field; but you can sort of hear the crowd when you are inside warming up and then when you initially run out there (at Suncorp Stadium), the atmosphere just hits you.

“When you are standing there for the national anthem – I rode my family and friends down as well – so they were standing there as well, so it was pretty cool to enjoy the moment with them.

“It was heavy-paced, the game itself.

“It was an exciting game. We shot out to a lead, but we always knew they were going to come back at some stage, but they got a lot of momentum and they made some really good long-range tries, I think the (Danny) Buderus one was pretty good for them.

“But Johnno (Johnathan Thurston), in his first game, he calmed us down and he kicked that field goal and that sort of settled everybody.

“And when we finished the game and before we went into extra time, Locky (Darren Lockyer) just said ‘just stay in the moment’ and when Matty took that intercept; it was pretty crazy actually.

“As a kid growing up, you can only dream of being in those situations and I have been one of the lucky ones to actually don the jersey and know what it means and know what I am representing.

“And to sit back now – I have two young kids, and they watched some footage of me, but they don’t believe it was me playing Origin, so it brings you back to reality pretty quick – but it’s surreal just thinking about it.”

23 - Matty Bowen's intercept try

Growing up, Williams was inspired by many players, with two of them also eligible to be selected in the Deadly Maroons Dream Team.

“Obviously, Arthur (Beetson) was definitely the first one, he was the one that lit the fire with it all (with regards to State of Origin),” Williams said.

“On a personal note, I think the Pearl, Steve Renouf; I followed him pretty closely... him and Mal (Meninga), I played similar positions to those guys and they were guys that I looked up to as a kid growing up obviously.

“There were no Cowboys around when I was coming through, so I was either a Broncos or Raider supporter and I followed both the lads.”

Currently, Williams works as head coach with the Northern Pride and while the Intrust Super Cup competition was called off this year, there’s been plenty of work being done to prepare the club for next season.

Some players also got their footy fix playing in the Cairns-based Lightning Challenge, with the Pride providing two teams to the contest.

“Through COVID, we got our academies back up and fully functional, with footy not being played locally, we made it a purpose and priority to head out and do our bit for helping the community and it’s been outstanding,” Williams said.

“Tully Tigers and Cairns Brothers were still keen to play some sort of football this year and they approached us and we said we can probably get two teams together which we did, we had 45-50 guys at training; we ran a six-week Kenfrost Home Lightning Challenge which was great and it was good just for the boys to play some football I think.

“Preparation for season 2021 (has been) making sure that our local guys get opportunities up here on and off the field, whether it’s players or staff and they are hopefully fulfilling their potential and providing pathways for them to do the best they can.”

Click here to view the Deadly Maroons Origin Team of the First 40 Years nominees and to assemble your Deadly Maroons dream team.