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Covell: 'Dougie' deserved Origin jersey

Covell: 'Dougie' deserved Origin jersey
Luke Douglas sets a new benchmark for NRL endurance when he plays his 195th game in succession on Monday night. Copyright: Charles Knight/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
He is being lauded for the way he has prepared his body for the punishment dished out to NRL front-rowers for 194 consecutive games but former Sharks teammate Luke Covell believes Luke Douglas should have been rewarded for his quality with a New South Wales Origin jersey.

Douglas creates his own piece of history on Monday night when he plays his 195th NRL game back where he played his very first – breaking the record set by Jason Taylor in 2000 – and against the club with whom he played the first 146 games of his NRL career.

Covell and Douglas played a total of 109 games together at Cronulla before Covell retired at the end of the 2010 season and the former Kiwi winger believes Douglas has been unlucky not to have achieved more representative honours than a sole appearance for Country Origin in 2012 and three caps for the Prime Minister's XIII.

"I was very surprised [he didn't play Origin]," Covell told NRL.com. "He's been thereabouts; I know he's been a shadow player a couple of times and been brought into camp but I always thought he was built for State of Origin.

"It's disappointing on his behalf but anyone who's played with him knows how good he is and the work that he does. He's a no-frills player, he's not someone who regularly breaks the line and makes breaks or has a fancy offload but you know if you're defending next t him he's not going to miss a tackle and you know if there's someone that needs to stick their hand up and do some hard work, he's generally the first one there."

Still just 27 years of age, Douglas was named 18th man for New South Wales for the third and deciding Origin match of the 2010 Series and conceded that he would happily give up his slice of rugby league history for that one Blues jersey.

"Definitely; I'm probably getting a bit on now but definitely would love to pull on a Blue jersey," Douglas said in the lead-up to his record-breaking feat. "I was 18th man one time, so close but no cigar.

"It's a bit overwhelming at the moment with all the cameras but it's something I'll look back on when I've finished footy definitely. My goal was to play a first grade game so to play this many in a row is pretty cool."

With a devotion to food and fluid almost unmatched and a peculiar fondness for ice baths, Covell described Douglas as the most professional player he had ever played with or seen, but revealed that dedication didn't always stretch beyond the training field.

"I wouldn't say he was always the first one to training because he was always late missing team buses and sleeping in but he was always the last one to leave," Covell said. "Whether he was waiting to see the physio or having extended ice baths... He'd sit in the ice baths all afternoon.

"He was actually a bit of a prankster; he didn't mind playing the odd sneaky little prank. I remember one day there, he somehow caught a bird, a magpie or something, and put it in Misi Taulapapa's car and he got an almighty fright when he jumped in after training.

"Little things like that he always liked being involved in but he was always sneaky about it, he never laired up. He was quiet when he was doing it."

He's escaped suspension – he was sent off in a Round 25 clash with Manly in 2009 – and defied an initial six-week diagnosis of a medial ligament injury in his knee in 2011 to line up the very next week.

But the most important person in getting him on the field even throughout junior footy won't be there to witness Douglas write his name into the record books.

Douglas's mother, Trish Douglas, passed away in May 2013 from cancer having suffered a stroke while flying to Europe to see Luke's younger brother Kane play for the Wallabies in November 2012.

It was the greatest test possible of the Douglas DNA and Luke admits her presence will be felt when he runs out onto Remondis Stadium.

"She's been my No.1 supporter, especially in the means of getting on the paddock," Douglas said of his mother. 

"Whenever I've had a little niggle she was the one looking up on the internet how to fix it and source my ice compression machines and that sort of thing.

"She'll be looking down pretty proud I'm sure."
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