For me, from when I played junior footy, being in the Queensland team was the pinnacle. You always watched State of Origin and wanted to be part of it.
I remember when I first started watching, Queensland was always the underdog.
When I was playing, when I was older, they started winning and the mentality changed- the team was expected to win. It was wrong if Queensland wasn’t winning.
I’m pretty lucky I got to be part of that era of dominance, playing with the greats, and now being part of this new team, trying to build our own thing.
So in terms of what being a Queenslander, part of the Queensland team, means to me, it’s a dream come true.
Growing up, we had a real mixed household.
I was born in Brisbane, then grew up in Lismore in New South Wales until I was about 12 or 13, then we moved back to Brisbane.
So me and two of my brothers were born in Queensland, and the three youngest were born in New South Wales.
My dad is New South Wales – Sydney, born and bred, and my mum is a Kiwi.
Dad was a proud New South Welshman, always supporting New South Wales growing up. Mum was always about the All Blacks.
Dad has flipped now. He flipped years ago, probably when I started playing.
But he has lived more in Queensland now than he has in New South Wales.
They love it. They love me playing. They’re footy heads – we’re a real footy family.
It has always been natural to watch footy at home and have pizza and do that kind of stuff. Pizza and beer on a Wednesday. It was the only time I was allowed to have a beer underage, watching Origin with dad.
I don’t know if I am allowed to say that, but I was allowed to have a beer and watch Origin with dad. It was always a big thing in our house, which was pretty cool.
My first call up into Origin, I got pulled in in 2014 as 18th man.
I remember coming in, training and preparing for the game and not getting to play.
Then, in 2015, I debuted with Morgo in Game I in Sydney. We won, it was awesome.
Since debuting, I’ve always had pretty good success in Sydney with our games.
To do it with mates, and now five years down the track still being able to put on the Maroons jersey, is something special.
I think the biggest thing, when it comes to playing for Queensland, is you don’t want to stuff up or make a mistake because you kind of don’t get a second chance in Origin. There’s always somebody else ready to go.
If you don’t do the job then somebody else will do it. If they do the job, then you can’t really get back in. So, I think it’s a whole different mentality for myself.
Before my debut it was ‘don’t stuff up, don’t be that guy who never plays again’. I didn’t want to play one game. I was scared of being that guy.
I can’t put being in the Maroons into words. I just love Origin.
The friendships – you can be away from each other for months and months but as soon as you get back together, it’s like you were together yesterday. It’s the same old, catch ups, telling stories. The ultimate comradery.
I have been so fortunate to play with so many good players. It’s hard to pinpoint who I have resonated with the most.
Nate Myles has always been my favourite Origin player. I was lucky enough to play with him and learn off him.
I still remember coming into camp and you think those older guys, they were there to do a job, but he went out of his way to make it easy, to make the transition into the team easy.
There was never a stupid question, he was always happy for me to get in there and learn.
Some players just worry about themselves when preparing, but he was really good at sharing and teaching us the ropes and what it’s all about.
Nate was only hated by New South Wales. Everyone here loves him. He is probably my favourite Origin forward of all time. I love watching him play.
And Michael Crocker and those guys.
They were the players I grew up watching. And Corey Parker. He was a good guy at the club who took me through.
During my time in the team, I remember Jono coming back when we won in, I think it was 2017, he came back from his shoulder. The preparation into the game.
He was a player – him, Smith, Slats, Cooper Cronk, were the kind of guys that when you looked there, you just knew you were going to win. You were going to be safe.
When Jono came back for that game, I think we were down 20-6 or something, and we came back to win. It never felt like we were going to lose when we had those guys there.
I think that game, and squaring the series up there after having that terrible loss the game before, was a highlight for me. That whole week stuck out for me, in my career.
Being in the Queensland team has always been a highlight and now, with age, has come the responsibility to be a leader in the group.Josh McGuire FOG #180
I don’t think I’ve changed too much, to be honest, with the way I go about stuff.
I’m a bit loud, I try and muck around and be jovial. But when it comes to games and training, I try and pride myself on being a competitor and ripping in.
I’m always happy to help any of the young guys, if they want to learn something or talk about stuff.
I never want anyone to feel like I don’t have enough time for them.
But I don’t think I’d go out of my way to try and be a leader. I just try and be me and if it helps someone, it helps someone.
If it doesn’t, everyone is different – we’re all cut from different cloths and act differently, but when it comes to playing for Queensland, everyone has that same passion and same drive to win, which is good.
My time in the game hasn’t all been positive. I’m pretty used to being booed now.
People make their opinions up on you from 80 minutes of football. It’s just whatever is portrayed on TV and whatever the media outlets have asked and mixed their own way.
I do cop a bit and it’s all part of the theatrical side of it, and part of the game, and I don’t mind.
Everyone is allowed their opinion of me and you’re more than entitled to have it, but maybe hold it back a little bit until you actually sit down with me.
For me, as long as my team mates enjoy me being around I’m happy.
If I wasn’t doing my job on the field, and the boys didn’t enjoy my company or didn’t get a laugh when we’re together, that’s probably when I’ll start thinking maybe my time is up.
Until then, I’ll probably just keep hanging on and annoying the boys.
My kids and my wife are definitely my biggest supporters.
But my son in particular is very crazy. He’s three, four this year, but he’s a crazy Queensland supporter.
Everything is Maroons. He sings ‘ya ya yippee’ all the time at home.
He said to be the other day ‘you used to win, hey?’ That burnt me a bit, so that’s something that’s really driving me this year.
Not just for club, but Origin as well. He grew up used to winning and that’s changed a little bit the last couple of years, which is very disappointing.
I want to get back to winning football games at all levels, including Origin. My son gets me, he burns me sometimes. Tells the utter truth, which kills me.
I think with the support of Queensland fans, we will get there.
I feel like Queensland fans just do it better. We just do it better. It means more to us.
No matter the situation fans are in, whether it be a cyclone or bushfires or whatever, you go out into country towns that are suffering and during Origin time everyone is happy. They just love their footy.
It gives everyone a sense of belonging and a sense of something else going on, which is good. I just love it.
The atmosphere at Suncorp Stadium and Sydney is chalk and cheese. You just can’t beat Suncorp Stadium, packed house. We just do it better, I feel.
So Queenslanders, stick with us. I know we’ve had a lot of good times, and now a couple of tough years.
We’ve been right there but we’ve had a big changing of the guard… the young guys, I’m super excited about and I’m lucky enough to be part of it. There’s definitely good times ahead.
I’m excited to see all the young guys develop.
That’s the beauty about Origin – someone gets that opportunity every year usually and it’s whether they take it or not.
We’ve got David Fifita, who is obviously a freak. Kalyn Ponga. Cameron Munster is there, carrying on like his is 16 even though he’s getting older now.
I’m just lucky enough to be part of the group, getting to sit back and watch everyone come through.
I’m sure there’s going to be another young guy who gets his chance this year at whatever time. And when he gets that phone call it will probably be the proudest moment of his football career and hopefully I’ll be there to share it with him.
I think I won’t really understand the impact I have had until after I finish footy and I’m away from it. But I just know it’s something I just can’t wait to be part of during the year.
I still pinch myself over playing with the guys I’ve got to play with. And who I’m playing with now.
I always feel like I’m that guy in the team that comes along for a laugh. And I’m just lucky enough to get the best seat in the house and be out there with the boys.
It will definitely be something that, when I finish my career, I can look back on and feel like it was a dream come true.
To New South Wales supporters, it’s a new year, we’re hungry and I’m excited about the series ahead. I’m very excited and very confident.
To Queensland supporters, let’s do this!