Simple philosophy proves secret ingredient for Maroons
STATE of Origin is like Christmas Day for rugby league fans, but unlike Christmas, we get to celebrate three times a year.
I'm often asked, "What makes Origin so special to Queenslanders?".
The answer is simple.
I remember going to the Queensland team announcement in 2008 and on the walls were photos of the 1958 Queensland side. The significance of that side wasn't lost on any Queenslander in the room.
Before the invention of State of Origin, Queensland and NSW battled it out in the annual interstate series.
Unlike in Origin, team selection was based on what state players played in, not which state there were born in, meaning the NSW side was often filled with the best talent from Queensland.
That 1958 Queensland side was the last Maroons team to win an interstate series - from 1958-82 we lost 23 straight.
The pain of those losses ignited the Maroon spirit that was born on July 8, 1980 when Artie Beetson ran on to Lang Park for the first State of Origin match.
I remember sitting on the lounge room floor of our house at Wallangarra, just a stone's throw from the NSW border.
My dad was an unemotional country guy, but there was a tear in his eye when he saw Artie lead out the Maroons.
I was nine years old and I knew right there and then I wanted to play Origin.
When I made my debut in 1992, I roomed with the late, great Peter Jackson.
"Jacko" had a simple, but brilliant philosophy on what it took to be an Origin player: help your mates, make no excuses, find a solution.
It's that foundation that has inspired all of Queensland's success. You knew when you put on the jersey your mate beside you wouldn't let you down, wouldn't make an excuse and when the chips were down he would find a solution.
This year's series looks intriguing. NSW have bought into coach Brad Fittler's culture and in James Tedesco, Damien Cook and Latrell Mitchell they have three of the most dangerous players in the game. Boyd Cordner will again lead the Blues' pack, which boasts players such as Tyson Frizell, David Klemmer, Jake Trbojevic and 19-year-old man mountain Payne Haas.
The Blues are the defending champs and no doubt believe they've got the side and the game plan to win, but in Kalyn Ponga, Cam Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt, Queensland has one of the most dynamic spines in Maroons history.
The side has lost a heap of experience in the past two years, but you can rest assured Kevin Walters has instilled in his players the need to help their mate, to make no excuses and find a solution when the chips are down.
The Maroons by 10.
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