Less than 12 months after breaking his leg, halfback Ben Hampton will continue a proud Melbourne Storm tradition as the inaugural captain of the Queensland team in the historic Toyota Under 20s State of Origin clash at Penrith tomorrow.
While Storm NRL captain and new Australian skipper Cameron Smith leads the Kangaroos in the VB Test at Eden Park in Auckland tonight, Melbourne’s Toyota Cup playmaker will be preparing to take charge of the Maroons in the battle for the Darren Lockyer Shield at Centrebet Stadium on Saturday.
Hampton, based in Melbourne but born in Mareeba in North Queensland, said he was surprised to make the QLD Origin team this week – let alone being named captain. The 20-year-old missed the entire 2012 pre-season and trial matches after a season-ending broken leg in round 12 of 2011.
“I wasn’t expecting to be in the side because I have just come back from a big injury and had my first game in almost 12 months in round 1,” said Hampton.
“It’s very special just being in the team for the first ever Under 20s Origin match, so to be named captain as well is one of the highlights of my career so far.”
As a member of the Storm’s full-time NRL squad, Hampton is not short of world-class role models with captain Cameron Smith also the new Australian and likely new Queensland skipper; and halfback Cooper Cronk the new Kangaroos halfback.
“To have those sort of guys around and to get the opportunity to train with them and just to hang with them as mates around the club … I feel privileged,” he said.
“As captain of the team I just want to set a good example like Cameron. It’s hard in a short time together but I will try to do my best to hype them up and lead with my actions.”
Off the field, Hampton is keen to work with children post-football and is juggling study for his Certificate in Social Work with full-time training.
In line with the Toyota Cup ‘no study, no work, no play’ policy, eight of the players selected for the Under 20s Origin are studying at university; five are doing apprenticeships; four are in traineeships; 12 are doing Certificate III/ Diplomas; and seven are in general employment.
From Bachelor of Science, Business and Education degrees to apprentice builders, plumbers and electricians the players come from a wide and varied range of study and work backgrounds.
The teams are coached by former Origin greats and now Melbourne Storm coaching colleagues Dean Pay (NSW) and Kevin Walters (QLD).
All players selected have played in the Toyota Cup, while the GIO NSW team includes six players with NRL experience – Cheyse Blair (Eels), Jacob Miller (Wests Tigers), Harry Siejka (Panthers), Matt Groat (Wests Tigers), captain Boyd Cordner (Roosters) and Alex McKinnon (Knights).
Toyota will donate a $1000 education grant to the Man of the Match on Saturday night.
GAME DAY DETAILS:
Date: Saturday, April 21
Venue: Centrebet Stadium, Penrith
NSWRL Harold Matthews - Week 2 Finals: 3:35pm
NSWRL SG Ball Cup - Week 2 Finals: 5:20pm
Toyota U/20's State of Origin: 7:30pm
Tickets to the 2012 Toyota Under 20's State of Origin clash are available through ProTicket.
Ticketed Club Members will be able to gain access to this match for free.
Junior Pass Card Holders who have activated their cards will also be able to gain free entry to this game.