Lillyman inspired by family tragedy
Queensland prop Jacob Lillyman has dedicated the most outstanding performance of his Origin career to his grandmother who passed away just prior to him joining the Maroons camp for Game Three.
Playing his 11th match for Queensland Lillyman dispelled any notions that he was fortunate to keep his place on the bench, barrelling his way through the Blues defence on the back of a wonderful platform laid by Matt Scott and Nate Myles.
Coming on in the 25th minute, Lillyman had run for 72 metres by half-time – and narrowly avoided a flying David Klemmer from a kick-off – and went on to tally 138m from 13 hit-ups with five tackle busts.
It was an inspired display and one which came from some family heartache.
As he joined his teammates in Proserpine last Tuesday for the annual fan day, Lillyman's grandmother, Rita Lillyman, was being laid to rest in her home town of Richmond in north-west Queensland.
"It was an awful long way away and I couldn't make it back there [for the funeral] but she hasn't been far from my thoughts throughout the camp," Lillyman told NRL.com.
"I was lucky enough to have Pop here tonight and it was just great to do it in that fashion in front of him."
If Lillyman's display was an eye-catching one for the fans it was further vindication for coach Mal Meninga and what he has known all along. The story generally gets written in Game One each year of how the unfashionable Lillyman appreciates the faith shown by Queensland selectors, a faith that was repaid in bucketloads on Wednesday night.
"We have faith in Jake and he was extraordinarily good," Meninga said. "We just have faith in him.
"We know what a great player he is and what a great fella he is and we know what we're going to get out of him.
"I think he's grateful too to be a part of this footy team and he places great value on being a part of this team and he was very, very good.
"We've had a bit of criticism around our bench but I thought our bench had been very good throughout all three games so I didn't feel like we needed to change that at all. That's why they're still there."
Given the quality of the early work of Scott, Myles and Man of the Series Corey Parker, Lillyman said he and Josh Papalii discussed the need to maintain the intensity as they waited patiently for their turn on the bench.
"Those two guys, Matt and Nate, really laid the platform and it was up to myself and Joshy to come on and continue things on. Right across the park it was a great team performance and one we're very proud of," said the 31-year-old Warriors prop.
"They'd laid such a good platform and things were going so well, you don't want to come out and not maintain that intensity.
"That was the big thing between myself and Josh, we spoke about trying to pick things up a bit and maintain what the starting front-rowers had done.
"There was a lot on the line and obviously after what happened in Game Two we wanted to come out and make a bit of a statement. It was just a great game to be a part of and one we won't forget in a hurry."