From Origin to the bush... and back again?
As Michael Ennis runs out for his maiden State of Origin trial tonight, the man that first made way for him at Brisbane 12 months ago is preparing his own career resurrection.<br><br>PJ Marsh is very much the forgotten face of the NRL – the former Origin star and two-time grand finalist having spent more time in the rehab room than the dressing sheds since joining the Broncos last season.<br><br>Despite making a brief cameo for Queensland in game one last year, he has barely been sighted since – having spent the early stages of 2009 plying his trade for Central Comets in the Queensland Cup behind Broncos pair Aaron Gorrell and Andrew McCullough.<br><br>But this Sunday the 29-year-old will finally get his chance to impress after earning a belated recall to the Brisbane starting line-up by coach Ivan Henjak.<br><br>“It’s good to be back,” Marsh told NRL.com ahead of the Broncos’ clash with struggling Manly.<br><br>“It’s been a bit of a slow start to the year with injuries and things like that but I’ve been performing quite well in state league.<br><br>“I do consider myself an NRL player but I can only do what I can do. <br><br>“I’ve been picked for the Comets this season so all I can do is play well there and that is what I’ve been doing.”<br><br>In many ways, Marsh has built a career around being the player that almost was.<br><br>For a while at least, the versatile dummy-half had the world at his feet – a maiden grand final berth for Parramatta in 2001 followed by another 12 months later after moving to the Warriors (the same year he made his Queensland Origin debut).<br><br>But tragedy struck in 2003 when a broken back shattered his dreams and very nearly put an end to his promising rugby league career.<br><br>Shunned by the Warriors after a series of setbacks, he nevertheless fought back bravely – returning to Parramatta in 2005 before an offer to return home saw him join Brisbane last season.<br><br>Yet his time with the Broncos has been a struggle.<br><br>“It started last year,” he recalled. “I played the first three games and won two man-of-the-match awards… then I broke a rib. <br><br>“When I came back from that I played two more games, then tore a bicep.<br><br>“That gave Michael Ennis his chance – he was playing wonderful football and I couldn’t get back into the side, so I played three or four state league games instead and injured my back. <br><br>“It went on from there really.<br><br>“Even this pre-season I pulled my hamstring and couldn’t play any trial matches which is a bit unfortunate, although I must admit I’ve been very, very happy just playing football the past few weeks. <br><br>“It has been six weeks in a row now without serious injury and we’ve been doing really well at the Comets with six wins in a row as well.”<br><br>Perhaps surprisingly, Marsh isn’t one to dwell on what could have been and bares no grudges for the time spent cooling his heels in Queensland Cup.<br><br>Asked if he was frustrated by events of the past 12 months, he simply shrugs and replies: “No, but I’m at a different stage of my career now. <br><br>“It’s not that football doesn’t matter – when I’m at football I train hard and I work hard – but I can’t make people pick me and I can’t be a player I’m not. <br><br>“I’ve just been doing my own thing and waiting for a chance. <br><br>“Ivan (Henjak) told me at the start of the year that it went on performance and I’m all for that – if someone is playing well they should be picked and the boys have been winning too.<br><br>“If I was in that position I would like to think that I would keep my place as well. <br><br>“So I haven’t expected too much, I’ve just had to keep going hard at training and not mope around.”<br><br>Nor does impending Origin talk faze him.<br><br>“Sometimes you forget that yeah, I did play Origin not that long ago,” he laughed. <br><br>“I had a couple of young guys at the Comets say to me last year: ‘It’s been an honour to play with you’. <br><br>“I looked at them and thought ‘What are you talking about? I’m your team-mate!’ <br><br>“It was a bit weird because I forget that I’m not 18 anymore but some of these guys would have been young schoolkids watching me play Origin back in 2002’.”<br><br>Whether fortune smiles on Marsh this time is yet to be seen, although with 153 games to his name he potentially offers plenty to a side preparing once again for the inevitable mid-season representative grind.<br><br>This week the Broncos find themselves welcoming four players back from tonight’s Test and Country-City encounters and Marsh could well find himself called upon to take charge when the likes of Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace start to tire.<br><br>“But that’s fine,” he said. “I’m not the best player in the world but I consider myself to be a solid performer. <br><br>“I’m not going to try and do anything out of the ordinary or have a ‘great’ game. <br><br>“I can only do what I do and I’m going to try and keep the middle tight and talk. <br><br>“I’m pretty good at talking during the game and keeping the guys encouraged. I think if anything it might be the speed of the game that gets me. <br><br>“The state league is a lot slower so hopefully I can keep up with the boys.”<br><br>All eight sides are as per the Big League program although North Queensland, Manly and St George Illawarra have all added extra players to their squads in case of injury in tonight’s representative fixtures.<br><br>Late news<br><br>• Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler will travel to Brisbane with 20 players;<br>• Michael Lett, Nick Emmett, Chase Stanley, Jon Green and Mickey Paea will all join the Dragons’ squad to travel to Townsville on Saturday.