'Odd' Gillett gets captain's backing
Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith has seen enough in six Origin matches to have full faith that Queensland teammate Matt Gillett will step it up another gear and be a valuable contributor in Friday night's Test against New Zealand in Sydney.
Having been named as 18th man on Sunday by Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens, the bustling Broncos back-rower was elevated to the squad of 17 when Brisbane teammate Sam Thaiday was forced to withdraw on Monday morning with a calf injury.
Considered unlucky to miss out on Australia's World Cup triumph in England at the end of 2013, Gillett's form to start the 2014 season made him a compelling selection and one that comes with the full endorsement of captain Smith.
"He's been outstanding for the Broncos this year and he's been on the cusp for a couple of seasons now. He's played a handful of Origin matches and he's performed well every time he's played there," Smith said.
"I know he'll play well. He's a good young kid. He looks a bit odd at times when he's running around but he's very effective with what he does on the footy field and hopefully his form with the Broncos can continue with this side on Friday."
While an emotional Gillett is clearly excited by the opportunity to impress coach Tim Sheens ahead of the season-ending Four Nations, he couldn't help but feel a touch guilty for taking his Broncos teammate's spot.
"It was pretty unfortunate for Sammy [Thaiday]. He's been trying for a couple of weeks to get back, obviously his calf isn't right. I think I owe Sammy something," Gillett noted.
"I'm pretty happy with the way things have worked out... I came down this morning and found out not long ago that I'd be playing in the game. I was straight on the phone to my wife and mum and dad. It was pretty emotional. They'll come down on Friday so I can't wait to run out in the green and gold and have my family supporting me there."
With the Broncos having hosted a whole range of past-and-present internationals, Gillett admits that he is well-tuned about the experiences involved around the annual mid-year Test between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis.
"There have been a few boys that I've played with at the Broncos that have represented Australia and New Zealand so you do hear a bit of the stories and how big the occasions are when you do put that green and gold on," Gillett said.
"I'm pretty excited and pretty emotional so I just can't wait to get out there."
Not one to dwell on the past, Gillett appeared unfazed by missing the cut for the World Cup, explaining that while he would've jumped at the chance he is happy to have finally gotten an opportunity to play for his country.
"I would've loved to go overseas and have a World Cup under the belt, just to get the experience under the belt and see what it's all about, but that's in the past, you can't change that," the 25-year-old said.
"I'm here now so I'm so happy and very excited about what's coming ahead.
"I've always thought and said to people that it's hard to change a winning side, especially the world champions, so just to be amongst these players and put in the side now – I just can't believe it and I can't wait to go out and play alongside each and every one of them."