Surrendering the State of Origin crown to NSW is a memory which will haunt Jacob Lillyman for a long time, but the veteran prop managed to put it behind him on Saturday night, playing a starring role in the Warriors’ 19-10 win over Brisbane.
Just three days after picking up his seventh cap for the Maroons, earning a recall for the first time since 2011, Lillyman started in the Warriors’ front row and ran for 95 metres and made 23 tackles as the New Zealanders out-gritted the Broncos.
It followed a short but effective return to the Origin arena, where the 30-year-old Richmond Tigers junior clocked up 63 metres and 12 tackles against the Blues despite only being on the field for 19 minutes.
“The body is not too bad actually, it is probably more mentally,” Lillyman said.
“Towards the end of the game I was a bit tired, I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night and then had the plane trip home.
“Mentally was the toughest part of getting up for this game, but I am just happy to get through it with the two points.”
Lillyman admitted that experiencing his first ever Origin series loss had taken a toll, and that getting his mind set for the Broncos had been difficult.
“Obviously Wednesday night was very disappointing and I have replayed certain incidents from the game 100 times over in the head,” he said.
“I have been thinking a lot about it the last few days. It was a little bit hard to focus on [the Broncos] but I think I switched on when I had to.”
Fortunately for Lillyman the Warriors don’t travel for the next two weeks, but he was still hopeful coach Andrew McFadden might afford him a day off training ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Panthers.
“I haven’t spoken to the coaching staff, but a day off somewhere in the week might be nice,” he said.
“Origin is a rollercoaster ride and then you back up and play again, so it would be good to mentally refresh.
“It is the price you pay for playing Origin, it is a massive honour. It is a tough period and you just have to do your best to get through it.”
The 30-year-old praised his club side’s toughness in getting over the top of the Broncos, despite racking up nine errors and going missing for large portions of the match.
The win was just the second time the Warriors have held a team to under 16 points in 2014. In fact, it was one of their best defensive games statistically, missing just 27 of their 293 tackles.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but we won ugly,” he said.
“We weren’t at our best but when we had to we defended well and scrambled well, coming up with a few plays which got us out of trouble.
“More often than not in the last couple of years we have lost those games, and probably a couple this year already too. We dug in and did what we had to do to get the two points.
“These games are really important for our season, we have a few home games in a row and have a bye in there as well, so we can really use this little period as a springboard for our season.
“If we can rack up these home wins as well as the bye I think it will put us right in the mix and hopefully we can make a run to the finals.”