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State of Origin is a lot about the mentality of a player. Anyone who gets picked is obviously skilful but it’s the mental side that you come into the game with that’s important.


It’s a tough game. Whoever is willing to do it the hardest will come out on top. There are big moments and battles in a game that you need to go after and you need to win.


We’re lucky to have such a great leadership team off the field. Freddy, Brandy, Bedsy, Craig Fitzgibbon, and Joey Johns comes in as well. They were all leaders coming up.



I got to know Freddy very early on in my career. He was the coach when I first came down to the Roosters at 16. He moved on the year after and did his thing in the media, but being able to work with him again last year was enormous.


To have one of NSW’s greatest Origin players as our coach makes us very lucky.


I don’t recall a meeting as such with Freddy when I got to Sydney. I got picked up by the recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan. He took me to training and it was a case of ‘There you go, sink or swim.’


It was daunting at first, training with the first-grade team at 16. You’re standing there with all these guys you’ve only seen on telly.


It was a great time for NSW and every time Origin came around you’d get really excited. You’d go to school that day and it’s all anyone thought about.


Of course, I got to know and talk to Freddy as the season went on. It was pretty easy because he knew what it was like to be a young guy coming through. He was still at school when he made his first-grade debut for Penrith and played for NSW and Australia pretty young.


The guys were good to me. Mitchell Pearce was really good to me when I first came down. I was close to Jake Friend and Shaun Kenny-Dowall in 2009-2010 and we won a grand final together in 2013 .


I was a young kid and it was another world. I remember SKD’s 21st was a big one – and that’s a while ago!


Mostly I kept my head down – didn’t say a word for the first year or two. I was a pretty shy kid coming down from the country and it took me time to warm up. I was definitely still in awe when I was 16 and I’d wait for Freddy to talk to me.


If he had something for me, I’d definitely listen and take it on board.





Payne Haas has only played 10 NRL games but he hasn’t missed a beat and justified his Origin call-up.


What he’s doing on the football field is really impressive and for a young kid to come back from a shoulder reconstruction to dominate the way he is, just goes to show his ability and what he’s about. It’s great to see.


Yes, it’s a game where’s there’s a lot on the line and bigger than an NRL game but, at the same time, it is a contest against your peers. He’ll be able to handle it. He has all the attributes to be an Origin player.


I’m expecting a big performance from Latrell Mitchell this year.


Latrell’s gone from strength to strength this season. Everyone can see the ability and talent he’s got. I think he’s starting to realise it too. Some of the stuff he can do on a football field no one else can.


To be able to be on the inside and see it first-hand, to see it every day in training, it’s pretty special. Hopefully, with an Origin series under his belt, he knows what to expect.


Football forces you to grow up quickly because you can learn some pretty hard lessons.


When you’re young it’s almost easier – you’re generally living with a family and you don’t have to worry about bills, or cooking or washing your clothes – all you have to focus on is footy. When I was young was easiest for me. I was focused on being the best I can be, being the player I am now.


Latrell’s a family man. He loves his family and every chance he gets he tries to get up to see them in Taree.


But he has commitments, He’s got a little daughter and to see him with her is awesome. He’s learned a lot since he debuted at 18, to see him now at 21 – he’s turned into a good young man.


He loves footy. It’s all he’s known his whole life.


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