Football journey takes full circle for Chambers
From the Northern Territory to Nudgee, Melbourne to Munster – Queensland's Will Chambers has seen plenty throughout his journey as a professional footballer.
Growing up in the small town of Gove, on the north-eastern tip of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Chambers never thought his footy career would have taken him from one end of the country to the other, with a playing stint on the other side of the world thrown in for good measure.
After debuting for the Melbourne Storm one week before his 19th birthday in Round 10, 2007, Chambers played 42 NRL games, including the 2009 Grand Final, before switching codes in 2010 to play 23 games of rugby union with the Queensland Reds and then eight games for Ireland's Munster.
The Nhulunbury junior returned to rugby league in Round 4, 2012 and scored 13 tries in 18 games during that season and backed that up in the 2013 and 2014 seasons with 12 and 11 tries respectively.
Chambers' good form after an underwhelming stint in rugby suddenly put the code-hopper back on the representative map, but despite his impressive try-scoring tally, Chambers would turn out to be a perennial bridesmaid in Queensland's Origin squads – named as 18th or 19th man during the seasons since returning from rugby.
A cruel career-ending knee injury to Brent Tate in Game Two last year opened the door for Chambers to make his Maroons debut in Game Three.
Some 10 months later, Chambers became the 800th Kangaroos player when he made his Test debut earlier this month and will play just his second Origin match on Wednesday night.
Having gone through such a long internship with the Maroons and having finally cracked the Australian side, Chambers, who turns 27 on the eve of Game One, was still anxious at being picked for the Origin opener.
"I was still nervous about getting selected and had to wait to see before getting the call on Sunday. I never expected to be a walk-up starter in a State of Origin side," Chambers told NRL.com.
"You're kidding yourself if you think that and it's such a great honour to be a part of it."
Having experienced both the Test and Origin arenas, Chambers still struggles to make comparisons between the two.
"It's hard to compare them plus I was playing in two different positions – the wing for Queensland where I was doing more running of the ball and then in the centres for Australia where I was doing a lot more tackling," he said.
"So it's hard to compare them but at the end of the day they were both fast and physical – both of them were tough.
"You don’t understand how big Origin is until you run out onto the field and see how crazy it is. Once that first whistle blows it's just a game of rugby league… so I've still got to get used to that."
Now 117 games into an NRL career which has yielded 59 tries, the former St Joseph's College Nudgee student knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of the Melbourne Storm hierarchy and the guidance of club coach Craig Bellamy.
"The Storm were good to me – I came through their system at age 15 and then through the [Intrust Super Cup side] Norths Devils – I was happy with the way their system worked," he said.
"As I've grown older Craig [Bellamy] has had such a huge influence over me and been really good for my footy career."
When Bellamy offered Chambers a return to the Storm in 2012 he jumped at the chance and hasn't looked back.
"I was honoured to play for the Reds but State of Origin is where it's at," he said.
"When I was a kid I always wished I could play rugby league but to actually get that opportunity is something special.
"I always followed the Canberra Raiders and although you wish and dream, but when it becomes a reality it's a different story.
"It's been a long journey – I had my stint in rugby but now I'm back enjoying my time playing rugby league."