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What Origin Means To: Clinton Schifcofske

Clinton Schifcofske and Sam Thaiday celebrate the 2006 series win following Queensland's 16-14 win in Game Three. Credit: Grant Trouville Copyright: NRL Photos

In the lead-up to the 2014 Holden State of Origin Series, NRL.com reveals the personal stories of the superstars who helped shape the contest into one of the fiercest rivalries in world sport.

In the eight years that this latest Queensland Origin fable has been written, there's a chapter at the very start that needs an amendment.

As is the want of storytellers, the heroes get elevated to god-like status as time passes and the man under the most pressure, the man with potentially the most to lose and the man who would go on to play more Origins than any other player in history was the one who received all the acclaim.

The part of the story that talks of the desire of Darren Lockyer to be in the right place to take advantage of a New South Wales mistake in Game Three, 2006 is all true, but it wasn't Locky's try that started this unprecedented run of Origin success.

"I was sort of thinking, imagine if I slip and hit the post and miss," recalls former Queensland winger/fullback Clinton Schifcofske, the man who kicked Queensland to their first Series victory in four years with a conversion from right in front.

It's the type of admission that sends sport psychologists into a cold sweat but has been a story Schifcoske has been able to dine out on for almost a decade.

"It was 14-all and that made it 16-14. It was from the sideline, not in front! That's what I tell my lad," says Schifcoske, who is now a player agent based on the Gold Coast.

"You don't miss from in front but I was still panicking a little bit. The surface at the Telstra Dome [in Melbourne], when you get out on that ground, there's no grass on it. It looks green but it's just like playing on a mud pile so it was really slippery but I just kicked it over.

"It was the most meaningful goal I ever kicked, especially now. Every time Queensland keeps winning I say to my young bloke, 'I played in the game when it all started.' He's seen the game about 10 times now, he loves it."

While Schifcofske’s name deserves to be remembered whenever the Maroons winning streak is discussed, it was his first appearance in the Origin arena since his debut in 2002, and would prove to be his last.

It enabled him to remove himself from those lists of one-Origin wonders but going into camp looking down the barrel of a fourth straight Series defeat, Schifcoske sensed the air of desperation that was engulfing some of the senior players.

The Queensland back five that night read Schifcofske, Wesser, Tate, Hannay and Mogg but it was the man wearing the No.6 who put it all on the line.

Senior players such as Lockyer, Petero Civoniceva and Steve Price were being sized up for the chopping block and even when they trailed 14-2 late in the game, it was their captain's inspirational words 24 hours earlier that held true.

"We were at dinner the night before and I could see Locky getting around to all of the boys," Schifcoske recalls. "He used to just sit and do his own thing but I saw him get up and go to each table and let blokes know that he wanted us to meet up in the team room.

"We actually all piled into his room, 17 blokes in one hotel room, and he spoke the most I'd ever heard him speak, the little I've had to do with him. He spoke about how much it meant for the state to win and the usual stuff but at the end of it he said, 'I'm going to go out there and be the best player on the pitch, I'm telling you that here right now. And if we're going to win I need 16 other blokes to have the same mentality.'

"It was pretty ballsy, to put yourself out there like that. Tonie Carroll was there and Petero and Steve Price, you could see blokes getting pretty emotional. I knew then that it was special and that we were going to win. Not that we were going to win but give it a red-hot go.

"It wasn't going well for a long time but we hung in there and grinded like Queensland do and the rest is history.

"I was just happy to be there but I could sense the relief in a lot of those blokes."

The seeds for Schifcoske's Origin passion were sown in the family home back n Mackay and he is now seeing that same emotion growing in his 13-year-old son Coby, a promising back-rower with Darius Boyd's old junior club, the Mudgeeraba Redbacks.

And while Benny Elias was the Blue that Clinton loved to hate, it is suspended New South Wales enforcer Greg Bird who riles up his young bloke.

"He'll sit and watch Origins now and wears my jersey on the lounge when he watches... and he hates Greg Bird," Schifcoske says.

"Like when I was a kid, you hated Benny Elias. It's just funny with Queensland kids, how passionate they are and he's exactly like I was when I was young.

"I'll always watch it because it's Queensland but not like I used to. Now I see how passionate he is it's pretty cool." 

Tomorrow – What Origin Means To: Ryan Girdler.

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