Blues Clues: We are ready for Origin I
Finally the big day is here. Even though it's my fifth Origin, I am very excited about tonight's game.
There is nothing more we could have done to be prepared for tonight.
Ricky Stuart has done a great job getting us ready on and off the field, and making everyone feel like they deserve to be part of this NSW team for the 2011 State of Origin Series.
We have built up a great rapport and we are really ready to play for each other tonight.
Below is Part 2 of my Daily Diary from the NSW Blues camp, to give an insight into what we have been doing to prepare for Game 1.
Apart from the game preparation, the week in camp has been a great opportunity to get to know a bunch of guys I usually see as my opposition on a week-to-week basis.
My room-mate Tim Mannah has been a lot of fun ... except for having to wax his back every few days! Mitchell Pearce is always funny, when he is not drifting off with the fairies along with Josh Dugan.
And Akuila Uate is like being around a gangster from the Bronx. He is that funny; and he is always laughing and smiling. He breaks the ice when things get too intense. Beau Scott is a scary man, silent and strong (look out Queensland).
And the big news: Greg Bird has gotten rid of his moustache. He bowed to peer pressure - we said he couldn't play if he kept it.
Bring on the game! I can assure the Blues fans, we are ready.
Friday, May 20 - in camp, Coogee
We had our biggest training session of the week so far at Coogee Oval; a reasonably intense two-and-a-half hour training run, working on positions and combinations.
It was a bit stop-start at times but we are starting to get really familiar with each other and how we want to play together.
We finished with ice baths under the stopwatch of Ronny Palmer, and backed up in the arvo for a weights session at Titan Fitness.
Later in the day was family time, with our partners and children invited into the camp. Being a family man with young kids it was great to see my wife and children. There were a fair few kids running around and it was good to meet some of the other partners.
It was a great idea and really brought us closer together. Everyone bought into it. Last year we had a small function at Homebush but not a lot of people were involved.
After dinner we went home for the night. I watched the boys (the Bulldogs) play on TV; it was tough watching them lose to the Raiders.
Saturday, May 21 - home time
First thing in the morning I took my eldest two children to footy to give my wife Simone a bit of a break after being away all week. My little fellow Jack was playing in the under-6s for De La Salle.
I spent the rest of the day with Simone and the kids before going back into camp at 8.30pm.
Sunday, May 22 - off to enemy territory
In the morning we had a sharp one-hour intense training session at Kogarah, our last hit-out in Sydney. Everything came together. It was a great feeling to see all the work we had done off the field translating on the field.
Certainly having seven Dragons players in the team helps with some combinations and plays, but they also bring a lot of confidence into the side because of how well their team is going.
They are all comfortable in their positions and Ricky is not trying to change the way they play at club level which means they have fitted into their roles more quickly.
We had a catered lunch and the Blues Brothers joned us for a while, before a final short and sharp weights session.
Then it was into our suits and on the plane into enemy territory. When we landed there was plenty of media there and the mood changed pretty quickly.
All of a sudden, it got real. We were there for a reason; everything we had spoken about was soon to become a reality. We were here to do what we had spoken about.
Our accommodation at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane was amazing ... probably the best hotel I have ever stayed in. Some of the guys were blown away by it.
Monday, May 23 - day off, Brisbane
We had a day off to freshen up, which was nice. I just relaxed with some of the boys, had some lunch and went for a walk. Some of the guys went to the movies and other had a kick around.
We have had a mixed reaction to our arrival. It has been good to have a fair few NSW people around the hotel, but outside of there they look at us like we are Mexicans and don't belong there.
I don't mind that. It is great to see the passion of the Queensland supporters. No doubt that will intensify over the next few days - when we go for our team walk on Wednesday it won't be pleasant. But it is also pretty funny too.
On a sad note, a former team-mate Sam Faust died today of leukaemia. He was only 26 and leaves behind a wife and three young girls.
Sam's death is more a personal thing than a motivating thing for the game. It's devastating and I am most upset for his family.
It was a real reality check - just 12-18 months ago he was doing what I am doing now ... playing professional football, with a young family of three children. It is very sad.
We had already started an online auction for Sam to help him get treatment overseas, but that money will now go to his young family to use for whatever they need. Jamie Soward is going to sign and donate his blue and white head gear that he is wearing on Wednesday.
Tuesday, May 24 - final training day, Brisbane
We had our final training session at Suncorp Stadium in the morning. It was really positive and a good way to finish the camp.
Ricky spoke to us and more so to the debutants and told them why he thinks they will be successful and why they were brought in to be part of the team. He has really filled these guys with confidence.
In previous teams there was so much media hype in Sydney around selections that you always felt uncertain about your position in the team. Ricky said everyone deserved their spots. It is a really good feeling knowing he genuinely wants you to be there.
That night, given we can't drive down Caxton Street to the game like in past Origins, Ricky organised a bus drive down Caxton Street and around the Stadium.
We got out at the Stadium and Ricky and Steve Roach talked to us about the history of Origin and about their Origin memories.
Back at the hotel we were presented our jerseys, which was really special.
Today, May 25 - GAME DAY
We will have the traditional team walk this morning and a meeting around lunch time.
The partners/wives and children are being flown in around lunch time. My wife and kids have been at the Gold Coast and I am really looking forward to seeing them before the game.
My eldest two really understand now what it means for Dad to be playing State of Origin football.
I think it's important to stick to my normal game day routine and do what I do every other time I play for the Bulldogs.
For breakfast I will have the stock standard four Weet-bix, two bits of toast with butter and some yoghurt. Lunch will be two chicken, cheese and avocado toasted sandwiches.
We leave for the game at 6pm, so an hour-and-a-half before I go to the team room on my own and stretch for half an hour, then thrown my gear on, ready to go.
When we get to the ground I set up my stuff and do the same half-hour stretch routine on my own before getting down to business with the team in the warm-up.
Hopefully at 9.30pm I will be on the winners' bus.
I'm feeling pretty confident. We have the right team and there is nothing more we could have done in our preparation.