Paul Green has been confirmed as Queensland’s State of Origin coach with the former North Queensland mentor saying he’s humbled to be given the opportunity after last year’s “special” series victory.
Jake Friend was relieved to get the all-clear after a concussion scare as he prepares to make his Queensland debut after 13 seasons with the Roosters.
Friend admits he feared his latest head knock would scupper his long-awaited State of Origin debut and continue to plague him in retirement.
But thankfully for the Sydney Roosters hooker “there’s a brain there and it’s working pretty well” as he prepares to act as Queensland’s rudder this month.
For years stuck behind Cameron Smith in the pecking order, Friend has won two NRL titles with the Roosters and played 262 games to more than earn his first Origin start when the series kicks off in Adelaide on Wednesday.
But the Noosa workhorse said his palms were sweaty as he waited for results that followed a second concussion inside six months after he clashed heads with South Sydney’s Campbell Graham in late September.
“I had to get a few things ticked off to play that last game,” he said.
“You want to know, whether it’s good or bad and you have to start thinking about your life post footy.
“But the results came back and everything looked really positive.
“It was definitely a weight off my shoulders, because you do start to think about it and wonder if you are doing any serious or long term damage.
“But there’s a brain there and I think it’s working pretty well.”
Friend, who will get first crack in the Maroons No.9 with NRL rookie of the year Harry Grant not part of their 21-man squad, entered camp last week as one of the better-prepared debutants in waiting.
He has played 13 seasons for the Roosters while potential debutant winger Xavier Coates has just 15 NRL games to his name with Brisbane.
“I enjoy that big-game atmosphere; I haven’t played Origin but I know what a grand final is like,” he said.
“It’s hard…you come into a rep environment without having played, but I guess I am a senior player – the hairline shows that.”
Friend will be asked to do a mountain of work around the ruck without the ball against an NSW side brimming with backline speed.
“I’ve always loved the toughness or Origin, the speed of it,” he said.
“Seeing blokes do effort on effort and coming up with big plays.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to be involved with.”