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Wearing the Queensland jersey should give you shivers

The first time I pulled on the Queensland jersey was in 2015.

I was selected after playing at state champs; we used to just play Crows versus Marlins versus Southeast Queensland. Now we have nationals, which is so fantastic. 

After the carnivals, I remember getting the phone call from Adrian Vowles to tell me I’d been selected.

I was at home because Quade, my youngest, was only about three. I definitely jumped up and down; I remember screaming into the phone.

I told my brother first because he's a mad Queensland fan, then my dad. It was very exciting.

I honestly can't describe the feeling I felt when I first put on that Queensland jersey; I just remember definitely getting shivers because there’s an immense amount of pride that comes with wearing it. 

Chelsea Baker in her first Queensland team. Photo: QRL Media
Chelsea Baker in her first Queensland team. Photo: QRL Media

People often ask me if I get really nervous for those big games, but for me it's the opposite. I just feel so much more comfortable. I don't know how to explain it... I think it's because of who I am surrounded by when I'm wearing the jersey.

That jersey itself, knowing who has worn it before me, and who is wearing it there with me, just makes me feel so comfortable and so proud to be in it.

When we first walk into that dressing shed and the jerseys are there hanging up, with our numbers on them in the lockers, you can hear a pin drop because everyone is in awe.

It's such an amazing feeling when you see that jersey and when you get to put it on. It's indescribable.

You can see the passion in every one of the girls' eyes. You're not meaning to show it - you're trying to concentrate on the game and what is ahead, but looking around the dressing shed you can see everyone looking down at the emblems on their chest. You can see them looking at their jerseys.

You can see how much it means to all of us. 

Playing the first State of Origin game last year was insane. It was so, so cool.

Chelsea Baker in action for Queensland in 2018. Photo: QRL Media
Chelsea Baker in action for Queensland in 2018. Photo: QRL Media

I honestly don't remember some of last year's campaign because I was really, really sick for the whole camp leading up to it. I ended up in the doctor's surgery the day before we played because I was struggling to breathe; and had to get some heavy duty antibiotics.

But I wasn't going to let it stop me - no bloody way!

Having played 2015 through to 2017 as the Interstate Challenge was always awesome. In my head it was always State of Origin anyway - Queensland versus New South Wales; we called it State of Origin amongst ourselves.

And then last year to be finally given that banner, and have Karyn Murphy, Nat Dwyer and Jo Barrett as part of our coaching staff, who had been there for so long before; to have them there with us for the first official State of Origin, that made it even more special.

It was insane, and even though we didn't get the win, I know we made those ladies proud. 

Now this year, the first year we will be known as the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons, is so exciting.

United in Maroon - Jersey reveal

I was actually part of a meeting at Queensland Rugby League earlier in the year and somebody asked there then, 'so the boys are named as the Queensland Maroons... what do you think you girls should be named?'

I just remember some of the people in the room really thinking hard, and I was like 'I want to be the Queensland Maroons... I don't know about the rest of you in here, I want the same name'.

Why wouldn't you? Look at the history of the men's - the passion and the rivalry, the meaning to the men's... I was like 'I want that'. There's no way I would want to change any of that.

Nothing would ever have the same ring to it, so the fact that they stuck with that and they got people to agree - the big wigs to agree, that's bloody awesome.

It brings a whole new level of excitement to this year's game.

Will it give us the boost we need to topple New South Wales? It can't bloody hurt, that's for sure.

Having Trevor Gillmeister officially part of the coaching staff this year is also so awesome; I loved having him around last year.

I know his niece, she lives up here in Gladstone near me, so whenever I meet him I try to get a picture with him to send through to her. He's an absolute character; he reminds me of my dad.

He makes everybody so comfortable when he's around. You know how sometimes you get a big name come in and everyone gets a bit nervous because they're so worried about not doing something right... I don't have that with Gilly.

Gilly watching on at a Queensland training day last month. Photo: QRL Media
Gilly watching on at a Queensland training day last month. Photo: QRL Media

I feel so comfortable with him around, which is really bizarre because he is one of those big names of Origin football.

What makes me laugh is so many of the young girls don't know who he is or where he has come from. 

I remember when he first came to help, somebody said 'the axe is coming in' and some of the girls were going 'who?'

We said 'Trevor Gillmeister' and they were like 'who?' and I was like 'Oh my God -they're babies, they have no idea'.

For most of us who know of him, to start with we were a bit starstruck and then he opened his mouth and had a bit of banter with us and we were like 'oh yeah, he's going to fit it great'.

It's a big boost to have him on board as part of the staff this year and not just coming to help out. 

Our coach Jason Hetherington is the same as Gilly; he just has that same buzz about him. He's serious when he needs to be serious and then loves to have a joke at the same time.

I really enjoy having him as the coach; he does a really good job.

If I'm lucky enough to be selected again, my aim for this year’s State of Origin is to go in healthy after being so sick last year; to get down there and be as fit, ready and healthy as I possibly can.

It's a bummer it's in New South Wales again, but to beat them on home turf would be awesome; we are hungry to get our first win in a few years - our first official State of Origin win.

To do that for all of the girls who came before us would be awesome.

So many girls did the hard yards before us. They recently listed the Australian Jillaroos number list and a few years ago they did up the Queensland one.

I was so pumped when I received my number. I'm No. 106. I recently got it tattooed on my arm.

We've only had 128 for Queensland; I think it's so awesome we're still at such a small number because it means those girls who did all the hard yards in the first years, they hung around and they kept going.

Chelsea Baker and the 2016 Queensland team. Photo: QRL Media
Chelsea Baker and the 2016 Queensland team. Photo: QRL Media

To be even remotely in the same category as those girls is such a big honour.

I want to make sure everyone remembers the girls who came before us; even though we're the ones who played the official State of Origin, we're not the first ones to put that jersey on. 

We carry every single one of those ladies with us out onto the field when we run out. 

Eventually, I would love to see the State of Origin develop to a series; I think it's going to be very much like the premiership, where it has to be a slow process. 

Until it's more of a job for the girls, I don't think many can afford to have another three weeks off work. But it would be awesome - equality with the men would be fantastic.

With the three games, if you lose the first one you're able to get redemption, so it adds to the rivalry of it all and the competitiveness.

I think Queensland is in good hands moving forward."

Some of the younger ladies who have been coming to our Queensland camps and development camps, they look fantastic.

And the fact that we've got staff hanging around and so many people wanting to be involved in the women's game, it's in excellent hands.

I'm will actually be excited when I finish up, to be able to sit back and watch and know I played a small part in this amazing game. Happy days. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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