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"It's we...not I': The inspiration behind Gilbert's Origin return

Dolphins forward Tom Gilbert said he will head into Origin camp this week with a better appreciation and understanding of what it means to wear the Maroons jersey.

Gilbert, who debuted last year in Brisbane's series decider, said his State of Origin experience went beyond the bright lights of Suncorp Stadium and it was actually in the southeast Queensland community of Warwick where he discovered what it really means to represent your state.

“I know when I go out there next Wednesday it's not, I, that's playing it's we. It's my teammates, it's my state and that's something I didn't understand as much last year,” Gilbert told on Monday.

“I think that's the biggest thing I took away from the game last year and I was very fortunate to be at Suncorp and leading up we had the trip to Warwick where we had an amazing turnout.

“I think it was that realisation that those kids used to be me, and I could have been signing the next Daly Cherry-Evans or Cameron Munsters’ jersey.

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“It just shows you how humbling this opportunity you is and it becomes more about we, rather than I and that's something I've only learned through experience.

“I started realising that this wasn't about the 17 or even it wasn't about Queensland Rugby League, it was about Queensland as a state and what transpired over the next few weeks really made that evident and that's something I really understand and appreciate now.”

While Gilbert was selected as a Cowboy last season, the 22-year-old Brisbane product has retained his place in Billy Slater's season opening squad after joining Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins in 2023.

Gilbert said learning under the former Maroons coach has helped him continue to mature as both a footballer and a person in 2023.

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“It’s funny, Wayne and I have only been together for three or four months and he's had a massive impact on my footy,” Gilbert said.

“I think the biggest thing that he's done for me is just allow me to be Tom. Tom has mistakes and Wayne accepts that. He works on what I'm good at and allows me to do that and he allows all the other players around us to do that too.

“So that's why our team is gelling and clicking and it's helped me really enjoy my footy and I'm really glad to be playing for the Dolphins, playing back home and now having the opportunity to represent my state.

“There's more people to it than just me that's helped me get here and he's now one of them.”

Gilbert and teammate Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow are set to make history when they become the first of the NRL-era Dolphins to step onto the State of Origin arena.

And Gilbert said he hopes to honour the legacy of the late Arthur Beetson who captained the very first Maroons’ side in 1980.

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“It’s pretty special. Something that's internal at the Dolphins is we do honour our past and the number one, Fog, Artie Beetson was a Dolphins player,” he said.

“He will always be the first Dolphin to play for Queensland and he's  one of the first Queenslander too.

“So, it's very special and you know, he's definitely in my thoughts through this process of being you know, the first Dolphins NRL representatives.

“For me, it's about doing Artie proud, doing Queensland proud and building on that legacy.”

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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