Being a Queenslander is a privilege. It’s an honour.
Growing up, you’re always very proud to be a Queenslander. Especially with footy and State of Origin. But it flows through to everything… the rivalry with other states.
Watching Origin as a young fella, watching growing up, it was such a big time of the year. Such an important time. The excitement, the buzz…. just being proud of the way Queensland played. Whether they won or lost, they were always in the fight. It was great.
Origin at home was always big. There was always a big build up. The week before, we payed attention to everything that was happening with the team. Couldn’t wait to get home from school. Me and my two brothers would play footy in the backyard. Mum would cook up a big footy feed… we’d have all the good food… pies and sausage rolls and all of that stuff, pizza. We’d have a feed while the build-up was on and dessert during the game as well. It was special. It was noisy too, with all the cheering.
When I was a real little fella, I wanted to be like Alfie Langer. Which is funny because I’m not anything like Alfie Langer in terms of my playing style or anything. And then as I got a bit older, Darren Lockyer. Again, completely different to what I play. I just loved them. Obviously though, there was big Gorden Tallis, Webcke, Petero… those guys. If you’re playing footy in the backyard, you couldn’t be like “I’m Queensland and the other is New South Wales”. It was more like “I’m Alfie Langer and you’re such and such from Queensland”. No one was ever going to be the Blues. We could be different players from the Queensland team.
I played footy as a real young fella, probably around six, in Rockhampton. And then I stopped for a while and played soccer for a bit until mid to late primary school, then I got back into footy again. I played a range of sports all through primary school and high school from there.
It was my brothers who got me back into footy at the Norths Knights in Rockhampton. They kept playing footy while I was playing soccer. I always loved it, I always watched it and played it in the backyard. But just in terms of the actual sport I was playing, I wasn’t doing it. They were. Then I jumped in on their team because they were a bit older than me. Twins, a year older…. I wanted to play if I could play with them, then it went from there.
Three boys, it was full on for mum and dad. I think my brothers were 14 months old when I was born, so it was hectic.
Getting my first call up for the Maroons…. I will never forget it. It was a Sunday. We’d played and we had recovery that day in Melbourne and I was at home, giving my son a bottle. He was under one. I was giving him a bottle, sitting on the couch and my phone rang. It was Kevie Walters. I threw my son over to my wife. I said “here, take him”. I answered the phone.
I hoped, in the lead up, that I might get a call-up as 18th man because I’d never been into the camp, into Origin camp. So I was just hoping for that, I thought “that’d be awesome if I could be 18th man”. I answered and Kevie said “I’ve got some good news for you… you’re going to be making your debut in Game II in Sydney”. I had tears in my eyes and just kept saying “thank you”. I was just so happy. It was one of the greatest moments of my life really. It was very special.
Going into camp, I was feeling good, nervous. I felt comfortable enough because I knew a few of the boys. Obviously we had a fair contingent of Storm players in there. We had Billy, Smithy, Coops, Will Chambers was in there. We had a good number of players in there who I knew. Then there was players that I’d played with growing up. I was feeling really good about getting in there.
I was feeling a bit starstruck by some of the players though because I’d only seen them on the field and watching them growing you. You know, Johnathan Thurston had been around for a long time… it was pretty cool spending time with him.
I just felt really good, excited. There was a real buzz having my family excited for it as well. It was good.
I first ran out in Sydney. It was good. Special, being my debut, it was obviously a big moment in my career, running out to a packed crowd like that. I’d run out to big crowds before but for an Origin game it’s something even more special I think. It was very special. It gives me goosebumps… one of the greatest moments of my career. That was my debut, and then the next game I got to play at Suncorp, which was a decider. Running out to that was just a whole ‘nother level again.
It was Queensland, we were in Queensland, Suncorp Stadium. It was even better. I was just so excited. It was a genuine “pinch me” moment. You’re thinking “wow”, running out in front of 50,000 Queenslanders for an Origin decider… it was just incredible. Something that you dream of doing as a kid. It was just amazing.
The biggest highlight for me, in terms of on-field… we obviously had success in my first year. We won those first two games that I played and that got the series for us. But Game III in 2017, my second game, first time playing at Suncorp for Queensland, we won the series… it was a very special time.
But just in general too… the highlight is being in that camp with the other great players you’re there with. The great blokes… they’re all great people too, it’s such a great time. You have a good time, make special friendships… mates for life. Such a good group, had good times together.
Those two things is what I will remember about Origin for a long time.
I was in camp with Cameron Munster, he’s a ratbag. Corey Norman is a ratbag. Those guys are funny guys. But probably one of them, and someone I really do enjoy spending time with, is Christian Welch. I loved being in Origin camps with him. He’s a funny guy. Has a good sense of humour, has a good laugh, is a smart guy too… so yeah, a funny one as well. Everyone loves having a laugh and a good time. Some more than others, but yeah, good.
Queensland fans, thank you for being awesome during my time in maroon. My debut game, we went up to Mackay, which was awesome, to do a fan day up there. It was a real special day, to see how much it means to Queenslanders. It’s a reminder too. As a kid growing up, you love Queensland. I would’ve been one of the kids going to those days. I did go to those days when they came to Rockhampton. Then you forget about it, then going back as a player to those days, it’s a good reminder how much it means to the state, how much it means to everyone. That was really special.
Generally, Queenslanders, when we’re at a game, particularly at Suncorp Stadium, when something is happening and the crowd – you – goes up a notch, that’s a real lift for the team. That’s what you play footy for… that sort of thing. You’re amazing Queenslanders. Always reminding us what the Maroons mean to the entire state.
I am very honoured and grateful to have been part of Queensland Origin. I have formed a very, very small part of what is an amazing history. I am grateful for the part that I have been able to play. Like I said, a very small part, but I’m happy I am part of it. It’s a pretty special history, I know that much.
I’m excited for Origin this year. It’s a whole new format in terms of being at the end of the year. It will be great to see. Usually the grand final happens and there might be a bit of rep footy on, with Australia, but it’s exciting the grand final happens this year and then we get to watch Origin. It’s going to be really exciting. And I know for Queensland, whatever team they put out there… they’re going to do a great job for Queensland. I am just really excited for it.
I feel alright about not being part of it this year. I’d love to be out there playing, don’t get me wrong, but I am just going to be excited to watch them. When they’re playing, when they’re running out… I’ll probably be like ‘oh I wish I could still be out there’ but I know they’re going to do a great job and like I said, I’m just excited to watch. And I’m just grateful I got an opportunity to play for Queensland when I did. Now I’m just excited to go back to being a spectator and enjoying it.
I’m still working out what my future holds. Obviously recently retiring. I think I’d really love to stay involved in footy in some way. That’d be good. I was a financial planner before I started playing in the NRL, so I’ve linked up with a company in Newcastle, JSA, and they’re really good. I’m excited to get back into that. I am hoping to strike a balance with both. I really want to stay involved with footy because it’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time, but I do enjoy the work with financial planning as well so hoping to do that as well.
Lastly, I just want to say thank you. It was a real honour playing for the state and being able to represent my family and the state in what is one of the best arenas of rugby league in the world. Thank you for the support. It has been great.