Blues Clues: Why this Origin camp is special
NSW hooker Michael Ennis invites us inside Camp VB Blues with his exclusive Blues Clues Origin Diary.
Day 0: Sunday, May 15 - Team announcement
I was bathing my two-year-old daughter when I found out I was in the NSW team for Game 1 of the 2011 State of Origin Series. Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg called me just before the media announcement of the team to congratulate me and told me my hard work and consistency had been rewarded, which was really nice to hear.
I was a bit nervous throughout the day before the announcement. Having three young children keeps you occupied but it's hard not to think about it.
In terms of my career it is the best experience I have been fortunate to have. Every Origin experience has something to treasure about it ... but this year has a real excitement and special feel about it.
That night I met up with Paul Gallen and Mark Gasnier at the Woolooware Yacht Club because we all live in The Shire. We just wanted to congratulate each other on making the team and Gal on getting the captaincy. We had dinner and a few drinks together and Ricky Stuart came and joined us. We had a lot of people coming up to the table to congratulate us which was nice.
It was a nice way to kick things off.
Day 1: Monday, May 16 - Camp starts at Coogee
We didn't have to be in camp until the afternoon which was good so I could spend some time with my wife and children. It's always hard saying goodbye ahead of the camp. I am only half an hour away from them though and I will get to see them on Friday as we are having a team family barbeque, and we get to go home for the night on Saturday.
From the moment I walked into the camp it felt like everything was complete with this group. You could see the amount of planning that had gone into the camp.
That's not to take anything away from the job Craig Bellamy did as Blues coach in the last few years. He was wonderful for me and I learned so much. My Origin experience was everything I dreamed of with Craig ... but he also had a job to do at the Melbourne Storm.
This camp was different from the start because it is Ricky's whole focus and you could tell that no stone has been left unturned - in particular with all the little things.
He got a group of men together called the Blues Brothers who wanted to get on board and support the team. They have chipped in for things like jerseys for our kids, looking after our partners with accommodation, transport and tickets to the game. It's a big help; as a player going into such a game, the last thing you want to be worrying about is how your wife is going to get to the game and where she is going to be sitting.
I have nothing else to worry about but sharing a room with my big mate Tim Mannah. I was really pleased to get him as my room-mate because we have roomed together before for the Prime Minister's XIII in Papua New Guinea.
He's a lovely guy. He shouldn't be a front rower, he should be a scrawny little winger because he is just so nice and friendly.
He is a very hairy man though ...so it is important to have two separate cakes of soap when you are sharing with him!
We had some media commitments when we first arrived, then after dinner we all watched the Monday night footy and hoped that Greg Bird didn't get hurt in the Titans-Manly game.
Day 2: Tuesday, May 17
We had a good light training session in the morning and a team photo and some more media in the afternoon.
That night we went to a formal dinner at Rushcutters Bay with the Premier and the Blues Brothers.
Wes Carr played a special song he has done for the Origin team - a new version of "All Fired Up" which was great.
After that it was off to a private function at the Lord Dudley at Paddington with a room full of past players like Brett Mullins, Brad Fittler, Luke Ricketson, Laurie Daley and Matt Gidley.
Being a little closer to our age, we had watched them play Origin and had enormous respect for them and we could relate to them.
All the guys in the room were my idols. It made you want to pinch yourself ... I don't know if it will ever feel real.
Talking to Ricky was funny because he was telling me that as a boy he had a scrapbook about Tommy Raudonikis who was one of his heroes.
I had to admit to him that he was my favourite player as a kid and I had a scrapbook on him and a Canberra 7 jersey. Having him as a coach is very special.
It was a great night.
Day 3: Wednesday, May 18
We had a swim at the beach before breakfast and it was a pretty relaxing day. A few of the boys had a sleep. Mark Gasnier, Greg Bird and I had lunch and a coffee.
There are a lot of guys in the team with young families and/or kids on the way so it is an easy talking point. Everyone is missing their family so it is good to have other guys around who understand those moments.
Bonding for us as team this first few days has really just been moments like that. There hasn't been any forced or planned "bonding" activity as such. We just spoke about doing things as a group, sticking together.
In the afternoon we went to Penrith for a Rebel Sport promo, then we had a relaxing dinner at a restaurant at Leichardt.
Day 4: Thursday, May 19
We had a great training session in the morning at Coogee Oval and got through a lot of stuff.
After lunch we took part in a Born to Be Blues clinic with 160 kids and did lots of skills and drills with them.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing before the big dinner at Star City Casino where we are going to be presented with our jerseys on stage. All the old players will be there.
I am glad NSW have gone to so much effort. It's going to be a huge moment and one that I am very proud of.
This group has only been together a few days but already there is an air of confidence and a strong bond has been formed.
When you go out on that field on Wednesday you will know that all the guys around you matter and genuinely care, so you will do things for them. You will put your body in places you don't like for the team. Here's hoping we can come home with the win.