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Brisbane Broncos back-rower Matt Gillett.

Matt Gillett is a "mates first" player that every Bronco wants by their side and it's a character trait the club first saw way back in 2008 before he'd even broken into the NRL.

Then a 19-year-old, Gillett - who is preparing to play his 200th NRL game for Brisbane in Sunday's elimination final against Parramatta - had started the season with the Wests Panthers Colts.

He had built a strong rapport with the players under coach Craig Ingebrigtsen before he linked mid-season with the Broncos under-20s.

The knockabout surfer from Bribie Island had the opportunity to play in the finals with Brisbane but asked if he could go back and play with Wests in their playoff campaign so as not to let down the mates he started the year with.

The Broncos looked at it as a strength in his character, not a weakness, and granted the wish.

Ingebrigsten, who is back coaching at Wests in the BRL competition after taking Easts and Sunshine Coast to grand finals in the Intrust Super Cup, reflected on Gillett’s decision.

"It just told me a lot about him as a person," Ingebrigtsen told

Eels v Broncos - Elimination Final

"It was a pretty emotional time because he made a really tough decision to do something because of his mates.

"He was available to play for the Broncos 20s in a semi-final but he made the decision to play for us and ended up winning a grand final with us.

"It meant a lot to his mates at the time and it still does because it is part of our club folklore. We still talk about the Gillo story when we talk to the players about 'club first' and 'mates first'."

When reminded of his decision in 2008, the Maroons and Kangaroos back-rower said his motivation for playing the game had not changed.

"I just want to do my best for my mates beside me. That has what has got me through my career so far and nothing is going to change," Gillett said.

"To play 200 games here is something that I am proud of and it is going to be a special moment. We have got a big task down at Parramatta and that is solely going to be our focus."

Brisbane winger Corey Oates said Gillett’s milestone was "a great achievement” by a valued teammate.

"Just to have that experience on the right edge, he's a leader in attack and defence. He shows that by his actions," Oates said.

"He gets the team going, always turns up, has a big play most games. He's a quality player that you always want on your team."

After the 2008 season Gillett started to take rugby league more seriously. He played a full year in 2009 with Norths Devils in the Intrust Super Cup where he was the competition’s rookie of the year.

Finals Snapshot: Broncos

The next year Broncos coach Ivan Henjak gave Gillett his NRL debut and he was the Dally M Rookie of the Year.

Since then Gillett has been one of the first picked for the Broncos, and for the Maroons and the Kangaroos where he has won multiple Origin series and a World Cup in 2017.

Ingebrigtsen knew earlier that Gillett was set for stardom when he coached him at the Redcliffe Dolphins.

"He was a 16-year-old playing Colts when they were 19s. Darius Boyd is a bit older and got the most tries that year with Burleigh, I think it was 32, and  Matty scored 29 tries as  a skinny winger when he didn’t even play the whole season for us," Ingebrigtsen recalled.

Matt Gillett scored a double against the Rabbitohs during his debut season in 2010.
Matt Gillett scored a double against the Rabbitohs during his debut season in 2010. ©NRL Photos

"I said then the kid was going to be a long-term NRL player and he has done plenty more in the game.”

"You want him in the team not only because he is durable and tough and does all the little things, but you want him in the team because the boys want him in the team.

"The players want to play with him and it is a credit to him. I know him out of football and he is a tremendous person."

Gillett’s 200th has taken longer than he would have hoped after a neck injury limited him to just five Telstra Premiership games in 2018. This year a groin and lower-back complaint cut into his availability.

"I would have enjoyed playing more footy last year, and this year I had a couple of niggling injuries but I finally get to play 200 in one of the most important games of our season," Gillett said.

"I was always confident of getting back out on the paddock. It wasn’t about reaching milestones. It is about performing well and I have to do that this Sunday.

"Last time we turned up [at Bankwest] and didn’t have our best game. Mentally there were a few distractions with rep footy.

"We take confidence out of beating them [17-16] here in a tough game [in round 24] and we’ve showed we can play good footy when we are on. We are confident we can go down there and get the job done.

"There is no fall-back. We have nothing to lose. No one gives us a chance so we just can go down there and play our footy and get the result."

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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