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Skin in the game: Why Robinson's desperate to put Maroons back on top

Julia Robinson only needed to be a spectator at North Sydney Oval last year and feel the pain of Maroons assistant coach Karyn Murphy to understand State of Origin highs and lows in all its glory.

Murphy, the retired Maroons legend who is regarded as one of the finest players to lace on the boot, was a huge part of the state's success as they went undefeated from 1999-2014.

Since Murphy's retirement, NSW have had the wood over the Maroons to pile on four wins and a draw over the past five years, including two wins recently under the Harvey Norman State of Origin banner.

While the last four years of pain continues to drive every player in the Maroons line-up leading into Friday night's match at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Murphy's demeanour still sits with Robinson leading into her debut.

"She was just blank, there was just this pain in her eyes," Robinson told NRL.com.

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"I never grew up with rugby league to know much about the history but for Murph and Steph Hancock it's been in their blood for years.

"We had a good talk the other night and hearing Steph's story and how passionate she is for the Queensland jersey and what a big legacy Murph left with the Maroons.

"To see how much the sport means to them and how they've paved the way for us, they're all my why to wearing the jersey. They give me so much motivation, I want to make them proud.

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"We'd had such a huge reputation for a number of years before NSW started winning so it was another loss was devastating. We're so determined for it to end.

"We do not want NSW to have another win and on our turf."

Robinson has another reason to celebrate the Maroons hosting the match in the Sunshine State this year after meeting with specialists over the past 12 months following allergic reactions to stadium grass in Sydney and Melbourne.

The 22-year-old wore arm skins to protect her from the turf during the Broncos' 2019 NRLW campaign after first breaking out in a rash at Melbourne's AAMI Park last year.

The NRLW's postponement to a warmer climate in October in 2020 helped Robinson ditch the skins but said it only becomes an issue south of the border.

"I get a little bit of a rash in NSW when I play games but the game in Melbourne [in 2019] was horrible, it looked like I was sunburnt all over," Robinson said.

"We got the win so everyone was celebrating with a few drinks but I was wrapped up on the physio table in cold towels from head to toe … I looked like an Egyptian mummy.

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"There was an option to wear some skins on my legs too but I thought it would look weird. I had to go see specialists and see what I'm allergic to but my skin was fine this year, it's just had a flip.

"I was probably a bit stressed about it last year which I think made it worse. It was playing on my mental side of things."

After getting through the 2020 season rash and injury-free after breaking her leg in two places last year, Robinson is set to go head-to-head with Jillaroos edge teammate Isabelle Kelly in a mouth-watering match-up.

I was wrapped up on the physio table in cold towels from head to toe, I looked like an Egyptian mummy.

Julia Robinson

Robinson has made some positive steps towards her own transition into the centres this year after starting her rugby league journey on the wing in 2018.

"Queensland wanted me to start training as a centre last year but I wasn't really confident playing it the first time," Robinson said.

"I didn't know what I was doing and then I broke my leg. Issy is an amazing player and I have so much respect for her as a person.

"She's going to come out hard but I'm up for the challenge."