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Tackle hard, run hard, don’t stop moving. 

It's a game plan that has served Reuben Cotter with spectacular success in 2022 so he's not about to change it when he makes his State of Origin debut at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday.

The 23-year-old has been a revelation since being shifted to the middle by Cowboys coach Todd Payten, churning out 125 metres and 40 tackles per game this season to make an undeniable case for selection in Billy Slater's Maroons squad for the series opener.

"I trained in the middle during the pre-season and I'm enjoying my footy there," Cotter said.

"Playing in the middle the job as a lock or prop is pretty basic. At hooker you're always looking up but in the middle you think a lot less and just focus on going hard."

Cotter's no-nonsense approach and bone rattling defence has drawn comparisons with another Maroons hitting machine in Dallas Johnson, who shared Origin series glory alongside Slater in 2008-09, but the Queensland coach said his new No.13 is very much his own man.

"Anyone who has heard me talk about Reuben this year understands how important I see his role in a footy team and he was one of the first guys I wrote down," Slater said.

"I'm expecting his brand of footy to be in the Reuben Cotter mould. He's got his own mould of footy and I've been really impressed with him."

Having overcome multiple ACL tears to finally make his NRL debut midway through 2019, Cotter's momentum was again cruelly halted by a foot injury that required surgery last season but with a full pre-season under his belt he has exploded into form in 2022.

"I never doubted myself because I was pretty young when I had those injuries so I had age on my side," Cotter said.

"This is something I really wanted to do as a young kid so it's quite special to be here.

"I called my partner Mackenzie first, she's at home heavily pregnant, we're expecting a baby in the next few weeks so we're pretty excited."

Another man walking taller this week is Payten, whose transformation of the Cowboys from cellar dwellers to contenders has catapulted six of his players into the Maroons squad.

With the Cowboys squad in camp on the Gold Coast ahead of Thursday's clash with the Titans, Payten had the honour of informing Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai, Val Holmes, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi and Tom Dearden that they had been selected for Queensland.

Generation Next: Reuben Cotter

"Todd asked if they could announce it to the group and I thought it was a really special moment for that group," Slater said.

"Todd has done a whole heap for those young guys and I felt it was important for them to feel that emotion as a group because they've helped those individuals get to this level."

Now that he has graduated to the elite level and become part of the Maroons brotherhood, Cotter plans on leaving nothing in the tank at Suncorp Stadium.

Maroons media conference: Billy Slater

"Origin is a huge occasion and I can’t wait to get up for it next week," he said.

"Any time you put the Queensland jersey on you'd be expected to give your best and that's what I'll do.

"Dallas Johnson was one of my idols, someone I looked up to as a young kid, and that sort of defence is something I've tried to bring into my game, I enjoy it.

"I don't reckon size matters too much, it’s about the fight in the dog."


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