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Gilbert’s top five Origin moments

Queensland Maroons hard man Tom Gilbert still pinches himself that he has had the privilege of wearing a Maroons jersey.

Gilbert made his State of Origin debut in Game III of the 2022 series and played 18 minutes of Game I last year, leaving the field injured.

“It’s obviously a privilege and that’s definitely not lost on me,” Gilbert said.

“Looking back on my career one day, I’ll have a great sense of pride… it’ll be overwhelming but it’ll be a realisation that I had the opportunity to play for Queensland at least twice, which is extremely special and something that I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do.

“I still can’t fathom that it came to fruition for me. I’ll look back on these moments and cherish them. It will never be lost of me that I had this amazing opportunity to play for this state.”

Gilbert, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament rupture during The Dolphins' pre-season game against the Warriors and is currently rehabilitating that injury, said growing up, he loved everything about Origin – especially given the Maroons rarely loss during his formative years.

“In Queensland, State of Origin is really special… we didn’t lose too many series growing up thanks to a few legends of the game," Gilbert said.

"But for me, it was me and my twin brother, wearing our Queensland jerseys to school and coming back home and mum having a big night cooked for us all… great food, getting everyone close.

“Me and my twin brother would be playing a game of footy…. funnily enough, Queensland versus Queensland because we both refused to wear a New South Wales shirt. They’re the best memories of Origin.

“Even now, looking back on it, what it means to Queenslanders, is it brings us together, brings the state together, brings your family together. It’s a whole day of looking forward to it and fortunately, as Queenslanders, we got to wake up the next day with a series win most of the time, so that was really special.”

Gilbert said when it came to who he and his brother were emulating and looking up to, it was very clear.

“My twin brother was always a big Cowboys fan and his favourite player was Matty Bowen and mine was Johnathon Thurston,” Gilbert said.

“He epitomises what Queensland is about, especially during what was such a great run… he was definitely at the top of that. I wanted to be like him. I’m probably not as fast, probably not as talented as he was, but even now, when I think about how I’d like to play the game of football, Johnathan Thurston definitely springs to mind. His competitiveness and professionalism he has around his preparation is second to none.”

Gilbert said another “pinch me” moment for him was realising for some young children across the state, he was the Bowen or Thurston.

“That’s probably the important relationship you’ve got to keep in mind... in football, you become a role model," Gilbert said.

"You once looked up to role models. It’s why it’s so good the NRL have such a big emphasis on being good people. It’s something the Maroons have driven into each of their players… you’re no bigger than the team, you’re no bigger than the game itself. You’ve got the jersey for the time being and your role in that jersey is to leave it in a better spot than what it was before.

“It’s all about being and doing your best because you are a role model to kids, you are a role model to Queenslanders out there, young aspiring football players.

"You have a real duty to make sure that when you put that jersey on, that you can look back at it, at the 80 minutes, and say ‘I gave it my best, that was my best effort’. That’s for the team’s sake but also for the role model you become when you put that jersey on.”

Gilbert's top five Origin moments

1. Hunt’s long-range try

“I was very fortunate to make my debut at Suncorp Stadium in 2022, in a decider. I think it was about five minutes to go, or so, and we’re hanging out, about to defend our try line and out of nowhere Benny Hunt charged down a chip-and-chase and ran 80 or so metres to seal the game. I remember watching him during the game and I couldn’t believe his engine and his motor that just kept going, playing in the middle, playing a bit of a utility role as well during the game. He was out on his haunches and with five minutes to go he was able to sprint 80 metres and seal the game. It’s great looking back at it now and hearing Cam’s commentary about it. Such a great moment. It happened to be Tommy Dearden and I’s debut, so it’s pretty special one of the greatest Origin tries happened to be that game.”

'It doesn't get any better' - Ben Hunt

2. The eight-in-a-row

“As a kid, that was fun to watch. That probably ignited my dream to play for Queensland. Seeing how formidable that team was and what they were able to create again and again and again. And to lose a series and then come back a couple years later and win another couple in a row again just shows what type of team they were. I think it created a lot of pride in the Queensland jersey. It was really easy to be a Queensland fan back then. I enjoyed every moment of that during my childhood.”

3. Daly Cherry-Evans catches Stephen Crichton

“I think this is a great moment when you try and sum up what the Queensland team is all about. I love the moment in Game II in 2023 when our skipper chases Stephen Crichton, makes a tackle in the corner and then to see 10 to 13 Queenslanders back forming a defensive line and not letting him score after that moment… I was watching that on the sidelines and that’s really special. I think you can’t teach people that, it’s just who they are. There’s no surprise looking back on it that it was our skipper that led the charge in that moment. If anyone wants to look at what Queensland meant to that team that day, I think that’s a really great example. There’s moments over time that are really special and I think when you look back at the history or Origin, that definitely has to be up there. It just symbolises what it meant to those blokes playing out there. It shows why our skipper is our skipper and why he is so great.”

4. Cronk’s 40-metre drop goal in 2012

“I love this moment because just because of the situation. Cooper Cronk slots a 40-metre drop goal with 10 minutes to go. Just the poise, the composure, to back himself with the game on the line. He executed a really tough play in an important moment. It was special because it won us Game II, but to see someone have the confidence to do that and to back his own skill was pretty special.”

16 - Cronk's boot keeps streak alive

5.  Gorden Tallis ragdoll

“I love this moment. I could only watch replays of it because I was a bit young to watch it. It was when Gordy Tallis ragdolled Brett Hodgson. That sticks out when you think of a forward playing for Queensland, Gordy Tallis just grabbing a Blues player and throwing him over the sideline. That’s always been a memory of any Queenslander when you think about what the Maroons were like back in the day, with those types of players. Especially myself being quite young, not having watched it, there’s still replays of it now. Just the passion, the aggression and the competitiveness to drag someone 15 metres over the sideline is probably another great example of what Queensland means to all players.”

8 - Tallis rag-dolls Hodgson

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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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