Origin legend who couldn't afford fuel
Like the 36 games for Queensland that have preceded it, Cameron Smith doesn't take his record-breaking 37th Origin cap for granted.
While ever you can cast your mind back to a time when you were earning $5.60 an hour doing a label printing apprenticeship and didn't have enough money to fill the car with fuel in order to get to footy training your ego remains in check no matter how many plaudits you receive.
In Game One of the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series on Wednesday night Smith breaks the record for the most number of Origin matches played, surpassing the man who preceded him as Queensland captain, Darren Lockyer.
His close friend and Maroons teammate Johnathan Thurston plays his 34th Origin match in succession this week but says Smith's mark is one that he nor any other player who steps forward to share rugby league's greatest arena will ever better.
'Cam' long ago joined the likes of Wally, 'Locky', Mal and 'Alf' as a Queensland legend known by a single name only and said his humble beginnings where he had to borrow money off high school sweetheart Barb ensured that he remained grateful throughout his decorated career.
"I think it was about $5.60 an hour, something like that, just out of high school. That seems like a long time ago now," Smith said of his brief days in the printing game.
"I always wanted to go to university but my focus was too much with football and I thought if I wanted to make something out of footy I'd probably just get a normal job so I started an apprenticeship in label printing.
"I was making very little money. I could hardly afford to put fuel in my car to get over to north Brisbane to train over there four days a week.
"I actually had to borrow some money off my girlfriend – now my wife – pretty much every week to pay for my fuel.
"Looking back now, that makes you grateful for what you've got right now.
"At that stage never would I have thought I'd be playing State of Origin or even getting the opportunity to captain the state so every time you do get the opportunity to play for Queensland I think that makes you even more grateful, looking back to where you come from and where you first started."
There will be six more players who join the list of 'Origin players' on Wednesday night with Corey Oates and Justin O'Neill to debut for the Maroons and Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Adam Reynolds and Dylan Walker earning their maiden Blues jerseys.
Like them, Smith says he will be nervous when the team boards the bus to travel from the hotel to ANZ Stadium and remembers clearly his first Origin experience.
Less than a month after his 20th birthday and with just 18 NRL games to his name Smith was thrust into the dead rubber of the 2003 Series and the result was a try in Queensland's 36-6 victory which at the time equalled the Maroons' record win over NSW.
"That first game was at home (Suncorp Stadium) and that made me feel a little less anxious about the match," Smith recalled.
"There's always nerves, no matter how many games you've played. If you're not nervous it's probably a sign that maybe it's time for you to finish up playing representative football and that the game doesn't really mean anything to you.
"I'm always nervous about going onto the field and what the outcome's going to be and how I'm going to play and it's no different this time given I'm going to play 37 games.
"It's obviously something very special but until the game's done I'll probably just worry about what I need to do for the team."
As for his mate 'JT' – who remains adamant that he is the better golfer of the pair – he says it is a record that when it is finally set will never be broken.
"No way, he's a few out in front of me. I can't see anyone breaking that record," said Thurston, who is perhaps playing in the penultimate Origin Series of his own astonishing career.
"It's incredible what he's been able to achieve in probably the toughest position on the field at nine where he plays 80 minutes week in and week out at all levels of the game.
"State of Origin has been going since 1980 and he's sitting at the top of the tree. It speaks volumes of his drive, his passion and the type of character that he is.
"He's our leader, he's our captain and I'm extremely proud of him."