Blues kickoff alumni program
Tom Ryan never played against Queensland.
He only pulled on the sky blue once, scoring six tries against a visiting All-American team almost 70 years ago. And most of them had never even seen a rugby league game live. He was even a maroon, for one game, when he coached up at Rockhampton in 1955.
But on Wednesday night, Ryan – the oldest attending player of the inaugural True Blues alumni held at The Star – was officially made part of the New South Wales family.
"I've been looking forward to it as soon as I first found out about it," he told NRL.com.
"Someone told me I was the oldest, I don't know about that. But I think it's fantastic what they're doing. It brings old players that we haven't seen for years.
"I coached Temora in '54 and John Kelly coached in '55 – and we just met. I went to St George, but everyone used to go to the bush. We used to get a bit of money there."
Almost two decades after Queensland's Former Origin Greats were founded, the NSWRL launched its alumni program to pay tribute to every single player to have pulled on a Blues jumper since 1907.
Origin legend Brett Kenny admitted he had long been jealous of the Maroons' FOGS organisation.
"And rightly so, because they've been very successful for Queensland," he said.
"We did try it here in NSW but it just didn't have the same success. So now they're trying something new. Hopefully this will work and things will become a lot better for the team and state.
"The whole thing is the fact that you need to have the current players feel comfortable when they're around former players."
New South Wales' most recent debutant, Trent Hodkinson, came under fire from Blues legend Andrew Johns last week for his recent form.
However the Bulldogs halfback said the criticism was warranted.
"It's a bit fair in a way, I haven't been playing the best footy. It is what it is," Hodkinson said.
"I don't think my form has been up to scratch as of late, I'm not where I'd like to be at this time of the year. But we've got the Tigers on Friday night, so I'm looking forward to having a decent couple of weeks before heading into Origin."
Kenny was part of NSW's inaugural State of Origin side in 1982, playing 17 games, including the state's first series win in 1985. The Parramatta legend said nights like Wednesday would allow to him to share his experiences with Hodkinson and halves partner Josh Reynolds.
"Look at Queensland. Look at some of the sides they've had, some of the players they've picked. Sometimes NSW are sitting back laughing and saying this guy's out of form. They play Origin and suddenly they hit form again," Kenny said.
"It can happen. It does happen. When you think about it, you've got a better quality player running around with you. You might be out of a bit of form, but you've proven yourself at Origin level. Once you get back in there, go into camp, you're back with these quality players, suddenly it's not too had to find form again.
"These two guys, they'll be okay. There won't be a problem there. They deserve their spot. They played there last year and we won the series."