Happy to be a part of it
STATE of Origin 2010 was a whitewash for Queensland and a privilege for a former Origin hero who was part of the Origin camps during the series.
Jason Hetherington is no stranger to the Maroons’ way of life and he embraced being involved in the pinnacle of Australian rugby league.
“It’s the second-best thing to playing,” Hetherington said.
“There have been 170 State of Origin players and for me to be a part of that is a huge honour.
“It’s your life growing up, wanting to play for Queensland.
“Winning the first two games was the easy part, but staying on track to win the final game was always going to be a challenge.
“I think the third one, to wrap it up three-nil, there was a fair bit of focus put on it at the camp. (Coach) Mal (Meninga) really stressed the point of wrapping it up three-nil because it hadn’t been done for 15 years,” Hetherington said.
“We’d been dominant for five years but hadn’t had the clean sweep.”
From a coaching perspective, Hetherington couldn’t have been happier with the style of play the Maroons adopted to win.
“I was really pleased with the victory for the fact that in the first two games we won through our brilliance in our playing roster, but the third was won on sheer guts,” he said.
“They showed they could win without all the brilliance by pulling up their sleeves and doing the hard work for each other.”
The feeling in the camp before game three was one of high expectation because the players were committed to the cause, Hetherington said.
“We all agreed it was the best preparation we had out of the three, the way things ran, the way the players approached their own individual sessions,” he said.
“All the little things that we focus on that can be taken for granted, the extra stretching, the extra work they do.
“The hardest thing is to keep them focused knowing you’re two-nil up and it’s a dead rubber.
“We didn’t want the same thing to happen as last year. This year we were in the position to win three-nil and we didn’t want to lose that again. It may not happen again for a while.
“The way Queensland’s going at the minute, you’re going to run out of fingers – we’re up to six now.”
The success being enjoyed by the Maroons could be put down to stability, Hetherington said.
“The dominance comes from having a stable playing roster, stable support staff. We only used 18 or 19 players,” he said.
“The Blues were up to 30 and that makes a big difference. You come into camp, everybody knows each other.”
Having the world’s best hooker, fullback, halfback and five-eighth in the key positions was a luxury, Hetherington said.
“Working alongside Billy Slater, he’s phenomenal. Even at training you can see why he’s so good.
“The way he approaches the game, his commitment to training and the finer points. Billy just seems to have something special.”
Speaking after the Jason Hetherington Cup final last Sunday, the former Origin star had no doubt the game he loves will thrive.
“League’s a very durable game. At the junior level I see it’s very, very healthy. It makes me feel proud to see 15 teams playing.”