McCullough living Maroons dream
ANDREW McCullough was just 11 years old when a kid from his hometown scored one of the great Origin tries on debut and ignited another representative dream.
Like most league-mad Queensland kids, McCullough already harboured dreams of one day pulling on the Maroon jersey.
But watching fellow Dalby product Carl Webb swat Blues defenders away like flies as he rumbled his way to the tryline on debut in 2001, a wide-eyed McCullough suddenly believed his Origin dream could one day become reality.
McCullough will be the first Dalby product since Webb to pull on an Origin jersey when he debuts tonight.
"It was definitely my dream but I think it's the dream of the majority of Queensland boys who play rugby to put the Maroon jersey on,” McCullough said.
Seeing someone from his hometown run on to the hallowed Lang Park turf though made it seem a little closer.
"It gives you inspiration that a kid from that particular area can make it,” he said.
"Obviously Carl's a different type of player from me but you just know that if you put the hard work in and do the right thing, you can get there.
"It's something we're very proud of (in Dalby) and hopefully that gives a bit of inspiration for kids out on the Darling Downs that they can reach their dreams if they work hard.”
McCullough has certainly had to work hard for his chance.
Webb was a fresh-faced 20-year-old in just his second season at the Broncos when he played his first Origin game. McCullough has more than 200 NRL games to his credit.
Playing in the same position as Immortal-in-waiting Cameron Smith has its challenges though and McCullough was forced to wait until the Storm hooker announced his representative retirement last month to finally get his call-up.
"If I'm honest, I worried about (whether I'd ever play Origin) in my early 20s but as I got older, I didn't worry about it, I just enjoyed my football and I reminded myself I'm very lucky I get to do something I love to do for a living,” McCullough said.
"I've just always wanted to play well for the Broncos and put my best foot forward and that's all I could have ever done.
"What Cameron's done for this jersey is remarkable and can never be replaced, so that's not what I'm here to do, I'm here to compete and be myself.”
The Origin series reunites McCullough with great mate and former Broncos teammate Ben Hunt, who will don the Maroon No.7 for the first time.
"We've obviously played together for a long time and it makes both our jobs a lot easier having those games under our belt,” Hunt said.
Former housemates, Hunt and McCullough were recruited to the Broncos at the same time and share a special bond.
"It's exciting. It's a big opportunity for us,” McCullough said.
"Kids growing up together from Dingo and Dalby, it's pretty crazy. But we don't need to get too carried away with that, we've got to make sure we're doing our job and what Kevvie needs us to do.
"It's a big job and I'm excited and nervous and a whole lot of emotions but I've got to make sure that I do what is required.”