FROM THE BUSH TO ORI­GIN’S BIG STAGE

The NSW coun­try towns that pro­duced BOTH Ori­gin captains

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT -

FOR the first time in State of Ori­gin his­tory, captains of the NSW Blues and Queens­land Ma­roons have proudly come from the grass­roots of bush foot­ball in NSW.

Greg Inglis, a Macksville Pri­mary School stu­dent, played for Bowrav­ille Tigers on week­ends.

A lit­tle boy with big dreams but, sadly, the one that got away.

Boyd Cord­ner, Old Bar Pi­rates, Ta­ree. A four-year-old play­ing un­der 6s and barely big enough to wrap a footy in his arms — every Satur­day morn­ing at Old Bar Re­serve, oth­er­wise known as “The Grave­yard”.

The sausage siz­zle, ba­con and egg rolls, the canteen and ded­i­cated vol­un­teers.

Mum and dad coaches and their team man­agers.

Wed­nes­day night is much about them as any­one.

If ever we needed a re­minder that the long-term health of coun­try rugby league is so vi­tal to the fu­ture of the NRL, this is cer­tainly it.

The game might be strug­gling in the bush th­ese days but it was the launch pad for the two men who will lead the Ori­gin sides onto the MCG.

It’s long been a sore point in Ori-

gin his­tory that Inglis, who was born and bred in Macksville, chose Queens­land over the Blues af­ter play­ing NSW Un­der 18s be­fore mov­ing to Bris­bane.

But no one is prouder than Coun­try Rugby League chair­man Choc Anderson that two kids from the bush will be cap­tain­ing the states.

“It just goes to show what an im­por­tant role all the clubs, coaches and vol­un­teers play in the coun­try ar­eas,” Anderson said.

“Boyd and Greg fell in love with the game as kids and we had the sys­tems in place and the right path­ways for them both to be­come cham­pi­ons of the sport.

“It’s why it’s so im­por­tant for the NRL to con­tinue to sup­port bush footy. It’s tough out there but we’re do­ing our best.”

All up, 13 play­ers from the 19-man Blues squad be­gan their ca­reers in coun­try foot­ball.

Get­ting rid of the an­nual Ci­tyCoun­try event was al­ways a bit­ter pill for bush stal­warts.

Not so much now the NRL has taken games to Tam­worth, Mudgee and Bathurst, plus Toowoomba and Glad­stone in re­gional Queens­land.

Who knows where or when the next Cord­ner or Inglis will turn up.

Main pic­ture: Brett Costello

NSW cap­tain Boyd Cord­ner at Blues train­ing in Coogee last week; insets, col­lect­ing a tro­phy at St Joseph’s Pri­mary, Ta­ree, with Blues great Danny Buderus; and play­ing for Old Bar Pi­rates with dad, Chris, and older brother Dane.

Main pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

Queens­land cap­tain Greg Inglis last week;insets, col­lect­ing a tro­phy play­ing for Bowrav­ille Tigers on the NSW Mid North Coast; his Macksville Pri­mary School Year 4photo in 1996; and Inglis as an un­der 18s NSW Com­bined High Schools rep­re­sen­ta­tivein 2004.

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