Munster takes firm grip of Maroons' No.6

The look on Steve Munster's face was not that of a proud father but rather that of a man who was struggling to comprehend the transformation this kid – his kid – had made before his very eyes.

An hour after making his Origin debut Munster was mixing with Darren Lockyer and Wally Lewis – two men with a history of excelling in the Queensland No.6 jersey – and looked just as comfortable as he had on the centre of Suncorp Stadium playing in front of a record crowd of 52,540.

His opportunity to represent Queensland for the first time in Game Three only came about due to injuries to Johnathan Thurston and Anthony Milford but as he has done throughout his young career Munster embraced the moment and made it his own, delivering arguably the greatest Origin debut the game has ever seen.

‌He had a hand in three of his side's four tries, produced game highs in both tackle busts (six) and offloads (two), kicked regularly and on one occasion earned his side a repeat set in the second half just as the Blues were threatening to make the contest closer than it ever really deserved to be.

When he was 17 years of age he was invited to begin training with the Central Queensland Capras in his local town of Rockhampton and once his coach – former Maroons great Jason Hetherington – got past the unfailing belief and strong dose of lair, saw something that he knew was special.

As he stood amidst a heaving Queensland dressing room as Wednesday night neared Thursday morning, Munster's father still looked as though he needed to be convinced that his son was now an Origin star yet for Hetherington it just reinforced what he saw in him four years ago.

"If Chris Lynn rolled his ankle in a T20 game at the 'Gabba you could give Cameron a cricket bat and tell him we need 60 runs in the next three overs he'd go out and do it," Hetherington told NRL.com. "That's just the type of kid he is.

"He doesn't get overawed by any occasion. It wouldn't matter where you put him or what the occasion was, he just goes out and enjoys his footy.

"As you saw tonight he just played football like he would at the Melbourne Storm. Outstanding kid.

"When I saw him train and how he approached his footy and worked out his character and worked out what he was about, more importantly his skill and ability to be able to catch the high ball, I thought, 'He's a good footballer this kid'.

"He's only going to get better too. After watching tonight, he's going to be hard to get out of there."

 


The fitting tributes to Johnathan Thurston – the man Cameron Smith would later call the greatest Queensland player of all time – were still reverberating around Suncorp Stadium when Munster made his entrance as a Maroon.

We may never see another Johnathan Thurston but the likes of Munster, Michael Morgan, Valentine Holmes and Dane Gagai have already begun writing their own Origin legacies.

"No one's going to be Johnathan Thurston," said his long-time Origin halves partner Cooper Cronk.

"Those kids could be him in 10 years' time but Johnathan's arguably the greatest Queensland Origin player that there's been, he's contributed to the jersey more than most so that was a fitting send-off for Johnny.

"Obviously [Munster's] performance was a little surprising but when you talk about his personality, a player that lives and breathes football and the way that he is a pure footballer, you're not surprised completely.

"He's got a bright future. As long as he keeps his head on his shoulders and does all the right things off the field, I think he's got a long future in the Maroons jersey."