Andrew McCullough has expressed his gratitude to legendary recruiter Cyril Connell as he prepares to become the ninth Bronco to play 250 NRL games for the club.
The Brisbane hooker will reach the milestone on Thursday night when the Broncos host Canterbury in the Telstra Premiership clash at Suncorp Stadium.
He will be 29 years and 169 days old on Thursday and will be the second youngest Bronco to play 250 games, just behind club Darren Lockyer, who was 29 years and 105 days old at the same stage of his career.
McCullough was a Dalby schoolboy in rural Queensland when the late Connell, who had recruited a host of Broncos greats including Lockyer, Wendell Sailor and Darius Boyd, came knocking on his door.
"I remember when Cyril came to school, and the reputation Cyril had as a person and a guy that was renowned for picking the best. It was a real thrill to have Cyril come and have a chat and show an interest,” McCullough said.
"I still look back at photos now of Cyril, Michael Hancock and Ivan Henjak who all came to the school. A lot of guys here don’t know who Cyril is but he is the main reason why the Broncos are what they are today.”
The visit lit a fire in the country lad.
"As a young fella it gave me a lot of confidence and belief to try and get there one day. As a boy all you want to do is be in those rep sides or identified as a good rugby league player, especially in the country," McCullough said.
"For Cyril to drive out there and plenty of rural places in Queensland shows his dedication and commitment towards developing young players to come to this club."
McCullough played his first league game as a nine-year-old for the Dalby Devils. He is still mates with a lot of his former teammates and speaks to them every day.
The Broncos rake is a pick and stick kind of guy and why he has been an integral part of the Broncos squad since his debut in 2008.
McCullough said it was "a pretty simple" decision to take up his player option recently for season 2020 at Brisbane.
"I am glad it is still in Brisbane," McCullough said.
"I love coming to training here and I still love competing and turning up at pre-season fit and mixing it with the young guys. They are a lease of life for myself."
He said he would “love to” be a one-club man for Brisbane.
McCullough joins Lockyer, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Michael Hancock, Allan Langer, Andrew Gee, Shane Webcke and Alex Glenn in the 250 club on Thursday night.
He learned plenty from Lockyer, Parker and Thaiday in his initial years, amongst others, with the key message being “to turn up to pre-season fit and not behind the eight-ball”.
There have been plenty of career highlights for McCullough, including a Maroons debut in 2018, but one that sticks out is Lockyer’s last game at Suncorp Stadium for the Broncos.
“It would have to be Locky’s field goal here against St George. I was lucky enough to throw him that pass. It was his last play as a Bronco,” McCullough said.
Asides from doing his own job to the best of his ability McCullough, in the Broncos leadership group, has become a mentor to the younger players in the squad.
He and wife Carlie are hosting teenage rising stars Xavier Coates and Tom Dearden in their family home and enjoying every minute of it.
"It is good. I think Tommy cut broccoli for the first time last night,” McCullough grinned.
"We had a good home cooked meal last night so they are happy today."
As for his response to his upcoming 250th game, McCullough was reflective on a personal level but also determined that it would be an occasion for a team celebration after the full-time siren against Canterbury.
“I am very proud and humbled to be with some pretty big guys that have done that at this club," McCullough said.
"It is a big milestone and I want to see a big team performance."