An emotional Brent Tate hugs his teammates after playing a pivotal role in Queensland’s win in Game Three; Tate has been a member of five of the Maroons’ eight straight Origin successes. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
He has been asked countless times if 2013 will be his last in a Queensland jersey and, for now, even he can't answer that categorically. But there is one thought that keeps swirling around Brent Tate's head: "State of Origin makes me a better player."
Having produced a stunning performance as the Maroons swept to a historic eighth consecutive series victory with last night's 14-12 win at ANZ Stadium, Tate told NRL.com of the mental battles he has waged at times this season as he struggled for form but credited Origin for once again turning it all around.
"I really do think that Origin makes me a better player," Tate said. "Coming into this series, my form was pretty ordinary. I was really battling and I had a fair bit of head noise going into that first game about how I was playing.
"In that first game I was probably guilty of just trying to get through the game and not make any mistakes to let anyone down. But I felt when I went back to the Cowboys it had lifted me and my performances the past couple of weeks have been pretty good.
"I've just been building off the back of Origin and I feel like I've done that my whole career. It makes me a better player. It drives me to keep competing at a standard to make this team so it's going to be pretty hard for me to say no."
Tate reached a career milestone in Game Two in this series when he played his 20th State of Origin game for the Maroons – a feat that saw him presented with the prestigious Dick ‘Tosser' Turner medal in the lead-up to the clash. Yet just a touch over a year ago he thought he would fall well short of the mark after missing most of the 2011 season with a serious knee injury that very nearly ended his career altogether.
"Last year, I honestly thought I was finished at Origin level and when I got a sniff that my name was being mentioned, I thought my footy went to another level again.
"But that's what it means. I love being a part of it and whenever it happens it's going to be hard to say no to it."
Tate has now played 21 games for the Maroons and taken part in five of their eight consecutive series wins, but having run for 144 metres last night he admitted to having never felt more satisfied by Queensland's success.
"Every year there is more and more pressure and more hype and it's just so big… it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off," he said. "I've been guilty in the past of probably not enjoying it but I'm going to enjoy this one I can tell you!
"We were really up against it, there was the crowd and we knew we were going to be on the other side of the penalty count but it wasn't about the flashy plays. It was about digging in for each other, turning up for your mates. This team knows how to win footy games and it really is special to be a part of. I knew at the end there that we'd hang on because it was too important to us not to."
Tate said he knew in the lead-up to the return game at Suncorp Stadium that the Maroons had turned a corner following their 14-6 loss in the series opener.
"I thought I could smell it with the way we prepared for the second game," he said. "I hate using that word complacency but maybe the first game – sometimes you sit in the sheds and look at all these many great players and you forget how hard you've got to work to win these games.
"I think the second game you could really smell it and again this week we prepared really well. That was just a real tough Origin game where neither side was prepared to give an inch and I'm just so proud of our boys."