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Jeremiah Nanai: 'I want to take it to another level'

Queensland Maroons second rower Jeremiah Nanai is, in one word, 'grateful'.

The North Queensland Cowboys talent played in all three games of last year's State of Origin series but was ineligible for Game I this year after being served a four-match ban.

Nanai said Maroons coach Billy Slater called him during his suspension with some advice and he had been "working hard on that" - namely defence and some one- per-centers. 

"Obviously coming from World Cup, I didn't have a full pre-season... I was a bit behind with all the running, so I worked on my fitness," Nanai said.

Nanai's first game back was Round 14 and he did not disappoint; he played 53 minutes, scored one try and earned his spot back in the Maroons squad.

"Can't express the feeling, playing top level footy... to win last year was pretty surreal," Nanai said.

Jeremiah Nanai back in camp. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL
Jeremiah Nanai back in camp. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL

"It's going to be in the memory bank forever. It was one of my best years last year because that was one of my goals. To play for Queensland and to win a series.

"It's obviously exciting to be back... watching the last game I had itchy feet, just watching the boys play.

"I'm very grateful that I'm here and that Billy gave me the call. It still just feels surreal, knowing that I'm back here and we can win another one, back at home too. if we can do that, it will be another box ticked."

Nanai: 'I don't know how to describe how excited I am'

The Cairns Kangaroos junior said when he first saw Slater's name come up on his phone, he did not know what to expect.

"We have a couple of boys out... I only just returned to footy last week and I thought he was just going to give me the heads up that I might be potentially in the squad... I wasn't 100 per cent sure if I was gonna make it," Nanai said.

"I'm just very grateful that he called me and gave me the opportunity... I'm going to take it and give it all my best."

Nanai said Slater asked him to do what he did last year - to get in there and play his style of footy - and he could not wait to run out at Suncorp Stadium again.

"It's the home of Queensland," Nanai said.

"It's a good stadium to play at. I love the field, love the atmosphere and the fans. It's just really a great place to play footy."

Nanai said it was not lost on him how much of a privilege it was to represent his family, his friends and the state of Queensland, including all of the children interested in or playing rugby league.

"It has always been my dream to play top level footy," Nanai said.

"I ticked all the boxes last year but I want to take it to another level and hopefully win many more Origin series.

"That's my goal now and that's what I want to work on.

"My message for any kids who want to play is 'just keep believing in yourself and if you think that you're not good enough, don't think that way... just keep moving forward and staying positive'. 

"I was that kid once and I'm here now."

The Maroons will take on New South Wales in Game II at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

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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