Mum was a huge influence. Mum and dad split when I was in my early teens and she was a real foundation for me.
I leant on her a lot and she was a big supporter of me and whatever I did, whether it was school or sport. As a single mum, I saw the challenges she faced raising me and my two sisters.
What I attribute that to is her nature, although she’s got a fierce temper as well and when I was growing up I was definitely more scared of mum than dad.
She’s amazing and I look back and I’m grateful for her influence. I have some strong women in my life and she was the start of that.
It was crazy money
I didn’t make my first rep side until I was about 15. Missing out on them drove me.
There was always disappointment and I remember at an under-12 carnival getting upset because I felt I played better than the guy that got picked.
I got a bit teary and my old man said to me, ‘This is it. You’ve got to use this to your advantage now’.
That’s always been part of what I’ve done, take the setbacks, learn from them and use it as the motivation to keep pushing forward.
When Super League hit, I was a young kid just on the edge of the squad. There was so much going on at the club, so much banter with the players about the Broncos deciding to go with Super League.
Chris Johns, who was at the helm of it, was a senior person at the Broncos. One day he called the whole club in to explain the decision to go with Super League.
I remember Alfie Langer letting out a big cheer and everyone getting behind it. Wayne was talking about naming a fulltime squad. It might have been 25 players and there was a lot of excitement because there were whispers around about the money on offer. It was crazy money.
It was just ridiculous, some of the stories. As the weeks went on, the stories coming out about players walking in signing contracts, they were astronomical figures for even young blokes who hadn’t been graded.
I reckon I must have been player 27 or 28. I missed out by a few. Again, I used that as motivation. I really knew I should have been in that squad and it drove me through my reserve grade days.
Super League was an iconic moment in our game and to be part of that and see it happening first-hand was surreal.
Unfortunately, it had a negative effect on the rugby league community. We probably lost a lot of fans because of that and then we came out the other side, and after those years of trying to push my case in reserve grade, I got my first big chance when the sides came back together in 1998.
Darts and eskies full of beer
My debut was such a special moment. I thought there it is: all those years of playing in reserve grade, missing out on that squad, all that hard work has come to fruition.
I’ll never forget walking into that Broncos shed as a first-grade player for the first time. Looking around that room I was nervous as hell. But to be there with Alfie and Kevvy and Wendell and Gordie and all the rest – that was an amazing side to walk into. The dream debut any kid could have and we racked up a massive score.
I’ve told this story to a lot of the young blokes, about the dressing room scene back then. Half the team smoked. As soon as the game finished the darts came out and they were onto them.
Peter Ryan and Johnny Plath led the way with darts. There were eskies full of XXXX for after the game. You sat there, got six under your belt. Then you’d walk out and your family and partners were waiting.
It was a great scene. Sponsors, staff, players all sharing a beer together. The dressing room full of cigarette smoke. Then you’d head back to the leagues club for the presentation.
I think it was Craig Bellamy who was telling this story. Chicka Ferguson would run off the field at halftime and there’d be a trainer with a lit dart. As soon as he’d cross the line, he’d puff away. Get the fuel into him.
That was the times back then. The poor buggers these days – no beer, straight into ice baths, got to eat, got to get weighed, maybe a drugs test.
Passion you can’t deny
I’ve got a lot of mates from NSW and I talk about the passion Queenslanders have for State of Origin and they tell me ‘Petero that’s a load of bullshit’.
I say it’s hard to explain but as a young kid you grow up and there was a mystique about the Queensland team. Back in those days they had this underdog status that they’d always go to, and they were.
You look at those Origin sides of the 1980s and NSW were stacked with internationals and Queensland were always in the game, right to the death with this great belief.
As kids, you’d start believing in it. You started to realise there’s something different about the Queensland jersey, sitting on the loungeroom floor with your parents, screaming at the TV, captured by the spirit this team shows.
People talk about it, the resilience, and as kids you appreciated that and thought, ‘I’d love to be part of it’. You came from all parts of Queensland but when you united together as a group and pulled on that jersey, you took on the legacy left behind by all those former champions.
I was going through my old jerseys a month or so ago. I’ve got kit bags from my first year, 1998. I keep them in a loft in my house. It was ridiculous.
I pulled them out and filled my whole lounge room with them. I’ve given a lot of gear away but I still have a heap left. I’ve given some jerseys to my old club Redcliffe Dolphins.
That was nice, going back through the gear. All the memories flooding back. Tours to England, those first few years in the NRL, awesome memories.