How Greg Inglis became a Maroon
Greg Inglis in action during the NRL round 7 New Zealand Warriors v South Sydney Rabbitohs. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Wayne Drought
It was a couple of days before the Melbourne Storm had their initial game in the NRL in 1998.
The Chief Executive Chris Johns and club founder John Ribot had just proudly gave me a guided tour of the new look Olympic Park layout as I had just agreed to be a foundation sponsor.
As we were walking back to the club offices I congratulated Johnsy on the great team that he had put together from the players he had secured from the Perth Reds, Adelaide Rams and the Hunter Mariners.
Greg Inglis was 11 years old at this time playing for the Bowraville Tigers near Kempsey, before playing for Newcastle Hunter at age 16. Had the Mariners not folded they likely would have had Inglis and he would be playing for Ricky Stuart in Origin II, wearing a sky blue jersey.
Having a vested interest in the Storm, I suggested to Johnsy that a mutual mate Peter O’Sullivan was the best judge of footy talent I knew and he should chat with him. Peter was quickly on board and put in charge of the players and recruitment. The Storm already had a mature list and Peter wanted to start from the bottom and work up ensuring Melbourne would have a good flow of young talent for years to come.
O’Sullivan was besotted by this skinny 15-year-old indigenous kid that he watched play in a junior carnival on the NSW North Coast. He spent the entire game trying to convince Mrs. Christine Inglis that he would look after her little boy in Melbourne. However he received no response, until after the game when she turned around and said: “where do I sign”.
Peter knew that he had a special player but he did not know how special. He is always hesitant to take kids from their home too early and introduce them to the club system, but young Inglis was carving them up at Bowraville and Hunter and simply forced the issue.
It was not long before Peter had a conversation with the Storm boss John Ribot. His following actions, changed State of Origin history forever.
O’Sullivan told Ribot that Inglis will be a champion and play for Australia in two years. As usual Peter’s judgement was correct, he did exactly as predicated, but importantly the astute Ribot, a Queensland power broker, made sure that Inglis was signed up to play for the Brisbane North Devils under 18s.
This ensured that he would be eligible to be a Maroon. He first played against his home state NSW in 2006 at the age of 19.
Greg Inglis has gone on to dominate the NRL, where he has won a Clive Churchill Medal and the Golden Boot. He is third in this year’s Dally M count.
At Origin level, he has scored 13 tries, an Origin record.
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