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Queensland's Ben Ikin.

When you play in an Origin series you need to be completely focused.

As part of a series of first-person pieces by Origin greats, self-confessed party animal and Fox League pundit Ben Ikin recalls how some straight talking from a Maroon great straightened him out.

This article originally appeared in Rugby League Week's Heroes of Origin magazine in 2012.

Ikin: My recall not totally deserved

I'll be honest with you. I only got picked for the first game of the 2003 series because there wasn't a better option out there.

I had been out for two years, my club form wasn't that good and I had lost some speed, wasn't the player I had been. There had been talk of switching Darren Lockyer to five-eighth instead.

Our preparation under coach Wayne Bennett was handy and I had a pretty good match in game one.

I was pretty good in attack. I won't say I missed tackles but I made a few defensive mistakes. Even though we lost the first match 25-12 we took a fair bit of confidence away from it, for whatever reason.

Ben Ikin tries to get Danny Buderus off his back in 2003.
Ben Ikin tries to get Danny Buderus off his back in 2003. ©NRL Photos

The next game, I didn't personally prepare as well as I should have and we played poorly and were beaten 27-4.

I would say I had a shocker.

What do I mean by not preparing properly? I guess I got a bit loose. I had a pretty narrow perspective back then.

A common thread through my career was that I too often forgot what it was that got me into a position to play well.

I too often forgot what it was that got me into a position to play well.

Ben Ikin

I was a professional celebrator. If there was any excuse to, I would go out and enjoy myself.

Before the first game, I was focused because I was under pressure. No one thought I should be in the team.

Because I went OK in that game, I took my eye off the ball and didn't prepare as I should. Wayne saw that in me. Maybe he saw it in others. But he got Shane Webcke to talk to me.

Now, Shane was the most consistent player in terms of performance that I ever played with. Very rarely, he might have had trouble with his hands, but in terms of effort and execution he was always bang-on.

The sort of stuff Shane said to me in the first week of training for the second game was all about living like I wanted to play, about how you can't have a messy locker if you want to be a tidy player and how my performances as a player always came from confidence and my confidence came from my preparation.

These are the sort of things that people had tried to tell me, probably, a million times. But after Origin II, having let down my team and with the press hammering me, I had reached a time in my life where I was ready to receive that message.

What Shane said to me resonated with me and has underpinned my approach to everything I've done since.

Full Match Replay: Maroons v Blues - Game 3, 2003

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The third game, facing a whitewash, we came back and won 36-6. That was my last official year of top-flight rugby league. Sure, I played a bit of Q Cup and got called up by the Broncos when they needed me but that was pretty much it.

I had missed the two years before, and the season before that at Origin level was terrible for me with NSW's hand grenade (post-try celebration).

So that experience in Origin in 2003 was an important one for me.

Ben Ikin retired at the end of Brisbane's season.
Ben Ikin retired at the end of Brisbane's season. ©NRL Photos

Initially, when you're 23 or 24 in camp, you just turn up and live in the moment, Most of what the coach says goes in one ear and out the other.

You just go out there and run hard and tackle hard. If you're a back, you try to use a bit of skill and if you're a forward you try to keep going.

As I said, I was only in the team that year because there wasn't a better option around. But it was a very worthwhile experience. I was emotionally mature enough to learn from it.

- as told to Steve Mascord


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