There is no script for how life has turned out for me this past year.

Everything that happened was so unlikely, I guess that is what has made these past 12 months all the more special for me.

Throughout 2018, rarely did I have time to stop and catch my breath – everything was just happening so fast.

Without saying the obvious, last season was by far the best year I’ve had in the NRL. When I first made the decision to leave the Brisbane Broncos for increased senior opportunities with the Gold Coast Titans, I didn’t even have a guess as to where I would even be in the frame for making Garth Brennan’s round one team.

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Day 1 back at work 2018 ✅

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I came to the Gold Coast with zero expectations; arriving only with a thirst for hard work and an appetite to prove I was good enough to warrant regular selection into top 17.

When I ended up getting a starting jersey, suffice to say I was stoked – I came to a new club wanting to earn the respect and praise of my teammates and coaching staff, and to me it was almost validating what I was setting out to do.

From there, all I set out to do was improve and get better each week. And I know how cliche that sounds, but I took that as seriously as I could.

In the opening game of the season against Canberra, I ran for 156 metres with 20 tackles and 15 hit ups.

I was stoked. Most importantly because as a team we sought to launch our season in the best way possible, so to get a hard-fought W brought smiles to everyone.

Secondly, personally I wanted to get off to a good start and it was a relief to show Garth and the club that I was committed to repaying the faith they showed in bringing me to the football club.

In the days after that first game, as all players do, I quickly shifted my focus to the next game. And for me, that 156/20/15 was my standard now. Anything below that I wouldn’t cop. I wanted – no, I needed, to beat that.

That was my psyche.

I’ve always believed that when it comes to team environment, if everyone plays their role, then the team will always give itself the best chance of winning. Again, another cliche I know, but it’s true.

And so for me, I felt like if I could play to that level then I’m helping set the tone for myself and also playing my role to the best of my ability for the team.

Next week against New Zealand, I had 213/33/21. You think I’d be happy right?

Wrong. We lost by 12. So for me, there was zero satisfaction.

But that was my approach. Give 100% every time and then explore ways to constantly get better and set new benchmarks for myself and above all, do whatever I could to help make winning plays for my teammates.

That mentality was really what drove me for the two months of the season and it wasn’t for any personal reasons whatsoever, I just felt like that’s what I needed to do to give myself every chance to help my team win games of football.

Although it wasn’t by design, I did hear murmurs around the league that my style of play was being spoken about amongst Kevvie Walters and the rest of the Queensland Maroons selectors.

At the time, I didn’t pay any attention to it and I know how often players say that sort of stuff, but honestly I’m not lying when I say that.

You have to remember, here I am, two months into playing regular senior football. That in itself was an achievement for me, given the limited opportunities I had previously at the Broncos.

So when I did get the Origin debut call-up from Kevvie, I had no idea what to say.

Remember – 12 months prior to that, I was mainly playing reserves footy with Brisbane’s feeder club in the Queensland Cup. I was in-and-out of the Broncos line-up, just searching for a chance to prove I had the makings of a key first-grade player.

I’ll never forget rocking up to Origin camp on that first day… I was so shocked with the players that I had around me – legit all-time greats of the game who I had been idolising from afar for many years.

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It’s been a great week, captains run ✅ #196

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Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and other former Origin greats all over the place. That first night in my hotel room, I remember just sitting there on the end of the bed, soaking it all in.

My entire family have always been league heads. So every year during Origin time, we’d have everyone over at our place to watch the game.

As a kid, all you do is dream about what it must be like to run out onto the turf at Suncorp Stadium, with 50,000 Queenslanders screaming at the top of their lungs… “Queenslander… Queenslander… QUEENSLANDER!”

When that moment came for me… there really are no words to describe what that feeling felt like.

I can still close my eyes and picture all the Queensland fans and their maroon-painted faces, the roar throughout the stadium… man, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

I was gutted we weren’t able to win the series last year, but that’s the beauty about coming back again this year and taking care of unfinished business.

I know personally, having now been through a series, I’m coming back with a more steady hand knowing what to expect.

You always hear current and former players say it, but Origin really is a whole different level of intensity and can’t be matched during the regular season.

Having been there now, I know what’s coming and how to navigate through it all.

Take two.