Pokemon chaser grows into NRL leader
The Pokemon-chasing gamer has grown up.
Once a wild-haired winger from Wynnum who chose getting a tattoo over playing in an under-18s game, Chris McQueen says that 12 months after being forced out of South Sydney he is ready to lead a Titans team growing in star power but light on leadership experience.
While tattoos are nothing new in the NRL, McQueen is one of the more colourfully adorned athletes in the Telstra Premiership and in the off-season had five different Dragon Ball Z pieces of artwork added to his body.
But when the squad assembled for a gruelling two-day Army camp a fortnight ago it was McQueen who announced himself as an emerging leader at the club and mentally ready to accept the responsibilities that come with it.
"There's a time and a place for everything," McQueen told NRL.com.
"When we're off the clock I can still be the gamer and have some fun and be the joker but as soon as it's time to go and time to train I think I can flick the switch and get serious pretty quickly.
"It's probably taken a couple of years because at the Rabbitohs there was a pretty strong senior playing group.
"I came through at the time when we had Roy Asotasi, Michael Crocker, John Sutton was there the whole time I was there, we had Greg Inglis, we had the Burgess boys so I didn't necessarily have to be that leader.
"Coming back this year we've lost 'Birdy' (Greg Bird), we've lost 'Friendy' (Nathan Friend), we've lost Luke Douglas so being one of the older guys in the team and one of the more senior guys, that leadership role was something I was looking forward to and something that I really wanted."
When NRL.com caught up with McQueen it was 12 months to the day that he had begun with his new teammates after the return of Sam Burgess to Redfern forced the Rabbitohs to shed some excess stock.
It caught McQueen off guard to a degree but he says now that he wanted to develop into a leader on the Gold Coast after he first earned the trust and respect of his fellow Titans.
"It's something that I knew when I first came up here but I still felt like I had to earn that respect and earn my stripes," McQueen said of his leadership aspirations.
"I had to do my time. I didn't know a lot of the boys when I came up here so I had to earn that respect.
"I think I started to be that leader late last year so coming back this year I knew that it was time to stand up and be that leader.
"It's only my second year here but compared to a lot of the younger guys that have come in I've been here longer than a few of those boys.
"As a senior player and given that it's my ninth year in first grade I think that sort of thing just happens naturally."
Although he perhaps took a few weeks to find his groove in the Titans team, the 29-year-old was just one of four Gold Coast players to appear in every game in 2016 and played a key role in their pursuit of a finals berth.
The six-time Queensland representative got better with each game he played and will go into the Christmas break in perhaps the best condition both mentally and physically in his 141-game career.
"The Gold Coast is a more relaxed lifestyle compared to Sydney and I just needed that change," said McQueen.
"I was in the South Sydney organisation for so long and I needed that change and it has refreshed me, helped to change my game a little bit and relaxed me.
"There was a mix of apprehension and excitement and optimism [12 months ago]. The club's obviously been through quite a few ups and downs over the last couple of years but last year and this year again we've added some quality players and some players who have got a lot of experience and can do some good things.
"The excitement and the optimism outweighs everything else."