Klem promise that came true
When David Klemmer arrived at the Knights, we had a BBQ at his house with some of the boys and their partners, to talk about life in Newcastle.
That day he told me, ‘if you stick with me, I promise I can turn you into a rep player.’
I was thinking, ‘a few years down the track, maybe’. I didn’t think that I’d be starting this year in Origin. And not many other people saw it either.
But Klem said, ‘I’m serious. You work hard and I can turn you into a rep player.’
He has definitely improved me as a player and there’s no way I would have made my debut in Perth without him and his help.
When he got injured and was going to miss the game, he started talking me up. But his support didn’t end there.
I talked to him almost every day in camp. It started out as ‘how are the boys, how’s training?’ That kind of thing.
A couple of days out, he started giving me tips about where to run – tactical advice. Keeping me focused on playing my normal game, not letting the occasion get to me.
Afterwards, he told me he was proud. That was pretty cool.
SPEECHLESS, WITH TEARS IN OUR EYES
Becoming an Origin player has happened really quickly. It’s always been a dream, of course. But it started to feel more real when the media was talking about changes for game 2.
The day the team was picked we had lost to Melbourne and I was talking to Jacob, my twin brother, about it on the bus on the way back to the airport from the game. I said, ‘uh, uh I’m not playing’.
I had come against Dale Finucane and he’d had such a good game in the middle. And it wasn’t my best game. I just thought, ‘there’s no chance now’.
We were at the airport and Mitchell Pearce was on the phone. He tapped me on the shoulder and passed it to me. I knew it was Freddie and he asked if I was keen to play Origin football. These aren’t the exact words but I said, ’yeah, let’s go!’
I had to have 30 seconds by myself. I stood there silently at the airport, thinking, ‘wow, far out, State of Origin footy.’
Jacob was in another part of the airport, so I called him. I said guess what, ‘I’m in’. He knew immediately what I meant by that. Jacob sort of felt like he made the team too.
We were on different flights but we managed to meet up in the food area to give each other a massive hug. Both of us speechless, looking at each other, shaking our heads, with tears in our eyes.
SECRET ADVICE THAT KEEPS ME FOCUSED
I was one of the first players to arrive at Origin camp. I had to go and get fitted for gear. When I got back, most of the boys were there and we had a meeting with Freddy – it all started to sink in and was so surreal.
I know it was partly luck why I was in the team. At the same time, I knew that this year I’ve put the hard yards in and I felt ready to play.
In all honesty, I thought I did my job. I wasn’t a standout. Made my hit-ups, made my tackles. Overall I was pleased with my debut.
A former Origin player – I’d prefer not to name him to keep it a moment between us – got in touch and said, ‘well done, but same as you don’t ride the lows too long, don’t ride the highs too long either. Just stay in the middle.’
It helped me switch straight into thinking about the Newcastle game this week.
I was a bit anxious and nervous leading into the game, but that was nothing compared to what my family seemed to be going through.
When I was named, my mum, Beverly, was in Fiji, and had to fly to Perth.
The first time I saw her in six weeks, and saw the rest of my family as well, was when I went to their hotel on the morning of the game.
They were more nervous than me; weirding me out. I could tell because they were so quiet, not looking me in the eyes.
My mum, nan Mereani and pop Jacob, brother Jacob, sister Mereani, dad Daniel, aunty Wendy and my partner Mikenzie were all there. I was worried about her the most.
She was so nervous. We were holding hands and she was shaking like I’d never seen.
It meant the world to have them all there for the biggest game of my life. There was a moment that really brought it home.
I was sitting in the hotel foyer with my family and someone saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re about to play Origin.’ I looked over and I saw mum. She was just looking at me with tears in her eyes.
‘IS IT BIT WEIRD NOT BEING A TWIN?’
I was raised by my nan Mereani and pop Jacob and mum after my mum and dad split up when we were young. We lived together with my uncle Paul in a house on the Central Coast.
When we started playing our junior games mum didn’t have her licence, so it was nan and pop and uncles and aunties who always managed to get us there. They provided for us and played a massive role.
People always ask me, ‘was it weird being a twin?’. My response is always, ‘was is it weird for you not being a twin?’
Having Jacob with me was all I ever knew and I couldn’t imagine my life with just me. We’re so close, there’s nothing we don’t know about each other.