A proud Greg Inglis has spoken of the tears of joy he shed when told he would captain the Queensland Maroons because he always felt a great sense of belonging in the team.
The 31-year-old will become the 13th captain of the Maroons when he leads the side out for the opening match of the Holden State of Origin series in Melbourne on June 6.
In a heartfelt press conference where he spoke of the honour, Inglis explained why he initially chose to represent Queensland and not NSW while detailing the emotion-charged phone call that coach Kevin Walters made to give him some good news.
"When I got the phone call I was quite shocked to be quite honest,” Inglis said of the captaincy call.
"I don’t know if [Walters] heard the trembling in my voice when I got off the phone, but I told the boys last night that the lump was in my throat and tears started rolling down from my eyes.
"It was quite emotional. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I’d be named captain of Queensland … captain of the state.
"I’m still learning how to be a leader. What I have to bring to the team is just being myself, and to just lead."
Inglis, who has played 30 Origins for Queensland, is the third indigenous captain of the Maroons after Arthur Beetson (1980) and Gorden Tallis (2001-2003).
When he was a teenager living in Brisbane, after attending Wavell State High in the city’s north, the NSW-born Inglis had a decision to make on his representative future, one that still resonates with him.
"I had a piece of paper in front of me all those years ago and was playing for Norths Devils, a senior game," Inglis recalled.
"It said ‘tick a box, Queensland or NSW’. I picked Queensland. People forget I came in when there were six debutants in 2006 on the back of a three-year losing streak.
"I came to Queensland for a reason, because I felt a sense of belonging and sense of family. It hasn’t changed."
Those powerful words, delivered with an air of self-assurance and authority, silenced the press conference for a second or two and encapsulated why Walters had made the right choice.
Inglis reflected on a tough 2017, where he sat out the season with a serious knee injury and received treatment for mental health issues, as one of personal growth.
"If I didn't go through what I've been through, I wouldn't be here today," he said.
"I learned a lot about myself and I have seen that as an up instead of a down. If I didn’t recognise that earlier I don’t know where I’d be.
“I don’t see that as a lowlight. It is a highlight because without it I wouldn’t have learned who I was, and who I really was. That is why I am so grateful to be leading the Maroons in game one.”
Inglis paid tribute to a long list of great role models, from Robbie Kearns, Matt Geyer, Matt King, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Craig Bellamy at the Storm, through to Test and former Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
"Kevvie [Walters] has been great to me ever since he came in … and Locky [Darren Lockyer], Petero [Civoniceva] and Steve Price,” he said when adding some Maroons household names to the list.
"I’ve been around a lot of great people and great players and I have taken notes from them."
Inglis conceded he was not the greatest talker but said he was more than capable of getting the point across.
"I am direct and the boys sit there and listen … which is great to see," he grinned.
"I will go out there and lead by actions. That is what I bring and that is why Kevvie appointed me as captain."
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 here.