What Origin Means to Petero Civoniceva
It was fitting that Petero Civoniceva got to play one Origin match at the old Lang Park before the antiquated melting pot of rugby league passion was redeveloped into the magnificent facility that Suncorp Stadium is today.
The old Lang Park may have been short on creature comforts but the wooden terraces were ingrained with a character that lives on through the players and fans associated with the Maroons still in 2014.
Following a Blues whitewash in 2000, then 25-year-old Civoniceva was one of an astonishing 10 Queensland debutants in Game One, 2001 and running onto the famous – albeit remodelled – ground remains his most treasured Origin memory.
"No doubt running out for the first time wearing that Maroon jersey, never forget that moment," says Civoniceva, who given the number of injuries to the current Maroons and his mid-season comeback for Redcliffe in the Intrust Super Cup may yet be called upon one last time. "Especially being at Lang Park, a ground I had been to as a kid sitting on the terraces and watching the great Origin games and then to finally get that moment...
"Obviously just dreamt about playing Origin and then finally to get that chance, especially in front of the home crowd in Game One and with so many debutants, it was a game to remember. And that was the Series when Allan Langer came back from England and inspired us to victory in Game Three.
"I think back to all the great players that I watched as a kid, they're the ones that started this history for us and obviously 1980 was the start of Origin but Origin goes back a long way before that as well. There's this rich history there and the players now are playing their part in writing the current pages and that's something that's very special.
"Obviously a lot gets made of the resilience and toughness of Origin players but I think it's the spectacle of such a gladiatorial game. There is so much hype around this game and so much passion for the game and it's amazing to think what the game has become in 2014 and what it's going to become in the next 100 years."
By the time he played his last Origin match in Queensland's thrilling one-point win in Game Three of the 2012 Series, Civoniceva had racked up 33 appearances in the Maroons jersey, only once coming off the bench (Game One, 2004).
Along with Steve Price he was the foundation on which this current period of Queensland dominance was built but when the two interstate rivals arrived in Melbourne for Game Three of the 2006 Series, Civoniceva's place in the team was very much in question.
Facing a fourth straight Series defeat, the senior members of the squad were very much in the firing line until Darren Lockyer delivered perhaps the most inspirational moment of his Origin career.
"New South Wales had beaten us convincingly in the Series leading up to that and we were under a lot of pressure," Civoniceva recalls. "Myself, Steve Price and Darren Lockyer as the most senior members of the team [were under the most pressure] so for us to win that Series I guess was the catalyst for where we are right now."
As a director with the Rugby League Players Association, Civoniceva is heavily invested in player welfare, a topic that has been hotly debated in the wake of one of the most physically taxing Origin matches ever played in Game One this year.
The effects of that game are still being felt in the lead-up to Game Two and Civoniceva concedes that scheduling for the sake of player welfare must be regularly reviewed.
"I think we just have to get through this year and see what the wash-up is after Game Three and see how it impacts on the players, post-Origin," Civoniceva said on whether the pace of Origin had reached dangerous levels.
"No doubt it takes a lot out of the petrol tank for every player, both physically and mentally, but it's just one of those things where we'll have to wait and see how the players respond to the quickness of the game and then obviously going back to club football and how they adapt to that.
"One of the great things about our game these days is the duty of care to the players and no doubt welfare will be on the agenda once the wash-up of Origin is completed.
"It's important to get that right because obviously we want our best players playing on the biggest stage and there's no doubt Origin is all about that."