You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
United in maroon: Leisel Jones

‘What does it mean to be a Queenslander?’

A question posed to one of the best swimmers the world has seen in Leisel Jones as she sat in a café on a very hot, muggy day in Brisbane, dressed in active wear with her nails painted deep maroon.

The ‘Queensland-ness' of the setting was not lost on her. 

Without hesitation, and with pride oozing out of her, Jones quipped “it means bleeding maroon”.

Jones, regarded as one of the world’s greatest ever female swimmers, won seven World Championships titles, nine Olympic medals, 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals, 14 individual world records and 23 national titles. 

“It’s something that is almost ingrained into every fibre of your being,” Jones said, adding despite the fact she was born in the Northern Territory, she grew up in southeast Queensland and considered herself as ‘Queensland’ as they come.

“I think when you grow up with Queensland in your blood… it's a pride that oozes from everything… it's like every pore in your body just oozes maroon and it's something that you grow up with.

“Usually it comes from parents, parents watching State of Origin and you have that love for it. The passion never goes away. The desire to see the Maroons win never leaves you.

“It comes from every fibre of your being, it’s a passion like nothing else.”

Jones said her earliest memory of Origin was watching with her late dad when she was young, adding her mum was a North Sydney Bears fan and likely leaned toward New South Wales, but would never admit that.

“I grew up in Wamuran out past Caboolture and I just remember watching it on TV… we’d always watch all of the series and I remember the short shorts," she said.

“Growing up in the ‘90s… I was born in ’85 so was watching in the ‘90s and just remember the short shorts and the amazing players who are immortals now… just the most hard-hitting, tough men that just took no guff from anyone. I just loved that, sitting on the couch watching.

“My dad died ages ago but he was through and through Queensland.”

Jones said one memory that sprung to mind was when she lived in Melbourne, she went to put the bins out and got locked out of apartment during an Origin game and ended up watching it through a neighbour’s window as she waited for a locksmith.

“I had to watch the State of Origin from outside the window of someone else's house,” she laughed.

“It’s my funniest Origin memory… peering through someone’s window going ‘go Queensland’.”

When it comes to players she loved and loves, “you can’t go past Darren Lockyer… he’s just one of the most intelligent players and JT obviously”.

“Darren Lockyer for me is synonymous with State of Origin and my memories and JT is amazing,” Jones said.

Darren Lockyer - State of Origin highlights

“Probably more of the modern players, I’ve connected to more, like Dane Carlaw… so many…. Dane Gagai… the more modern players funny enough… you’d think it would be the older ones.”

Outside of rugby league, in acknowledging successful Queenslanders, Jones said she could not go past the swim team including Susie O’Neill and Grant Hackett.

“I grew up with them, watching them at the Olympics… swimming in Queensland is so successful,” Jones said.

“Most of the teams I've been on, 60 to 70 per cent were Queenslanders, so there’s something special about swimming in Queensland just like there’s something special about rugby league in Queensland.”

Jones, who was coached by late Redcliffe swimming coach Ken Wood, said having the “Redcliffe connection” further fuelled her passion for rugby league and the Dolphins.

“I love that it's come full circle that growing up on the peninsula, there was so much pride in the Redcliffe Dolphins in Cup and now to have the Dolphins in NRL, it’s amazing,” Jones said.

“I'm so heavily invested in all of that.”

Jones, who works at Triple M now with Ben ‘Dobbo’ Dobbin and Liam Flanagan, said Origin days these days were pretty relaxed.

“I have like heavy investment in the journey of it… I feel like now I am more a part of people's journey in the lead up to Origin, which I haven’t had before,” Jones said.

“So I feel like I know the people going in there now, which I really love because you hear people's stories and who they are and you feel more connected to them.

“So it's not just that pride from the sidelines, it's knowing those people and meeting them and understanding who they are behind the scenes.

“I love every bit of that. I feel like my heart is more in it now.”

Jones said the current crop of players really impressed her including Tom Flegler and Corey Horsburgh.

“Fleggy… I love him so much,” Jones said.

“He’s just such a beautiful human… so lovely and we've loved having him on and he's just soft and gentle, but he's such an arsehole on the ground and so strong.

“Corey Horsburgh… I love him too. We've had his dad on the show and he’s from where I’m from. They’re probably my two faves… so hard-hitting.”

For Jones, her earliest memory of donning maroon was around 1997 when she competed at school national swimming championships.

“State teams like that, we had the most incredible team and amazing group of people,” Jones said.

Leisel Jones in 1997. Photo: Supplied
Leisel Jones in 1997. Photo: Supplied

“It was maroon and white, it was parachute material, it was the best… so naff. There was so much pride. To represent Queensland at a national event, I think it was in Adelaide, and seeing everyone else like New South Wales in blue and white and all of the other states… with Queensland there was this huge representation of some of the most powerful athletes.

“So yeah, the pride in wearing maroon… so huge.”

Jones, when queried about how she felt about being one of the people who has represented Queensland on the world stage and put it on the map for people, she said it was an honour.

“People from the States have a general understanding of what Queensland is in terms of swimming because a lot of them have come here and understand the Australian landscape of how we do our sports,” Jones said.

“It's really cool because it's kind of like the biggest cohort of people, the biggest names all coming from probably one of the strongest states in this nation in terms of swimming.

“It’s just so incredible, like the amount of names that we have, like Kieren Perkins, Suzie O’Neill, Grant Hackett, myself, Libby Trickett… so many great people, everyone from overseas knows like just how strong we are and that's why they come here.

“Even my friend Roland Schoeman was here, like he's going for his fifth or sixth Olympics or something. But coming here to train in Queensland because it's the best facilities and it's the best people and we've got the best athletes.

“The Queensland Academy of Sport is synonymous around the world with top performers, like from so many different sports, the talent that you see in there, like if you go into that gym and like Harry Garside is there, you've got Matt Denny, like amazing.

“I love representing Queensland and I love being synonymous with what the Queensland lifestyle is, what it means to be a Queenslander, which is down to earth, really salt of the earth people who are hardworking.

“I’d also say hard-hitting… not afraid to take on challenges and I feel like Queenslanders - as much as they're strong - they have this kind of lightness to them, which is kind of like a no-f***s-given attitude, which I love. I love that because we are, we were always so backwards.

“I think people looked at Queenslanders as like, oh we were back, you know, 20 years ago, but we are so up and coming now like leaders in so many different things, especially in sport.

“I think people now look at Queenslanders and are jealous of what we have… our personality and the way we do things because before, it was frowned upon and it was backwards. But now it's like, ‘oh they're actually, they're the future and they're so they've got it together’ and our lifestyle is so great and our attitude to life is so great and so different.

“I think people are clicking onto that now and they're like, well, you shouldn't have done it 20 years ago.”

When it comes to the 2024 Origin series, Jones said it was “going to be tough” but she had every confidence in the men and the women.

“I have to be really honest… it’s going to be a really tough ask with the change of coach for New South Wales… I think Billy Slater is a great coach and we’ve had it so good… I think it’s going to be a tough contest, a tough win for Queensland,” Jones said.

“My words of wisdom for both teams are ‘it is such an honour to pull on anything maroon and this is the highest calibre of maroon that you could possibly get because the whole state is behind you'. I think the big thing is to enjoy it while it lasts because it's so short.

“You might only get one series, you might only get one game, but you've just got to make the most of that one time and take it one game at a time.

“So no matter what's thrown at you.. you just take it for what it is and get on with the job.

“Get the job done to the best of your ability and move on… whatever happens. Go Queensland.”

The 2024 State of Origin series kicks off with the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons taking on New South Wales at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday, May 16 ahead of Magic Round; to join in the fun, click here.

Match: Maroons v Sky Blues

Game 1 -


home Team


Sky Blues

away Team

Sky Blues

Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Nine Now

Game I for the men is in Sydney on Wednesday, June 5. 

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.

Platinum Partners

View All Partners