GI to extend his stay in South Sydney
GREG Inglis' reign as Queensland captain will not be short-lived after the Maroons star outlined plans to play in the NRL for another four years.
Inglis will return to Melbourne on Friday night to face the club which made him an NRL giant when South Sydney take on the Storm in a qualifying final.
The Rabbitohs have been the NRL's surprise packets in 2018, finishing the season third on the ladder in rookie coach Anthony Seibold's first year in charge.
A large part of South Sydney's resurrection has been the form of Inglis, who has stripped 12kg to rediscover the touch which made him one of the game's most devastating players.
Inglis, 31, is entering the twilight years of his career and was nearly lost to the game when his rehabilitation from a knee reconstruction stuttered late last year.
However he overcame the setbacks, and a stint in a mental health facility, to pilot South Sydney's premiership charge and secure the Maroons captaincy following the shock retirement of Cameron Smith.
Inglis' stint in the Queensland captaincy had the potential to be brief, however the 32-game Origin legend is now eyeing one more contract to continue playing, possibly until 2022.
Inglis joined the Rabbitohs in 2011 after the Storm were forced to shed players following the club's salary cap scandal and said South Sydney saved his career.
"They just gave me a sense of family," he said.
"I felt like I walked into a family environment and to me that is very important. I just felt at home.
"I still have another few years there and who knows, I might sign for another year or two and call it quits after that.
"It has been interesting the ride I have had at Redfern. I love the place, I love the club, I love the community and what it stands for."
Melbourne skipper Smith took over the Queensland captaincy in 2012 following Darren Lockyer's retirement and led the Maroons for six years before unexpectedly quitting the representative arena in the lead-up to this year's series.
Inglis was always going to be the next Queensland captain, however few expected him to take over from Smith this year.
The leadership role brought out the best from Origin's greatest ever tryscorer (18), with his two performances for the Maroons simply sensational in a series-losing team.
Inglis sustained a broken thumb before Game Three and missed the dead-rubber which Queensland won at Suncorp Stadium to avoid a whitewash.
He spent nearly two months on the sidelines as South Sydney's form wavered, but the return of the 102kg weapon has coincided with the Rabbitohs bouncing back to their best.
"He is looking fit," Smith said ahead of the AAMI Park blockbuster.
"The last couple of weeks he looks as fresh as he has for a long time."
Inglis said his stint on the sidelines was a blessing in disguise as the Rabbitohs look to back up their drought-breaking 2014 NRL premiership with another title.
"Having the seven weeks off and not rushing back after my thumb injury really helped," he said.
"I remember winning it in 2014 and that photo of me holding the trophy, what was going through my head then was what got stripped off me in 2007 and 2009 (Storm salary cap).
"Those 10 or 20 seconds was reflection on the premierships that got taken away and aren't in the record books. In 2014, that premiership went into the record books for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"I would love to re-live it without a doubt, but I have to get back from my ACL (knee) and missing finals footy the last two years, that's what driving me and I want to lead my team the best way I can lead and that's through my actions.
"We had a bumpy ride and last Thursday night (51-10 thrashing of Wests) we turned it around. That was the best win we had for a long time."
There are few more enthralling sights in the NRL than the 195cm Inglis in full flight.
The 258-game veteran missed all but the first game of the 2017 season because of his knee and has fought back from the darkest period of his life to return to the NRL finals.
"I was in a mental institution," Inglis said of last year.
"So mentally it was tough, but I am back where I am now.
"I love the game. There were times where I thought about hanging the boots up and that was as recent as November and December last year.
"You know when it is time to give it up when you watch a game and don't feel anything, but I was watching the boys training at Souths and thought 'yep, that's what I want again'.
"That's why I didn't hang up the boots, I still had that itch to play.
"I feel fine, I still seek treatment. I don't see any dramas with it, if people have problems, don't be scared to speak up, you will only help yourself.
"It is still a stigma (not talking about depression), but I've been touched by the support and I get so many letters from people and social media messages, it's really touching that I can help so many people out.
"I try to reply to as many as I can, but it's tough. Me coming out and helping myself, I didn't realise the impact I could have for someone else's sister or cousin or best friend."
Inglis was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal in Melbourne's 2007 grand final win against Manly, a premiership that was later stripped for salary cap breaches.
He played 117 games for Melbourne after debuting in 2005 before leaving the Storm as the club retained big guns Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk following the salary cap scandal.
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