FROM THE BUSH TO ORIGIN’S BIG STAGE
The NSW country towns that produced BOTH Origin captains
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.
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.
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.