Playing grade football was always a dream of mine.

I went to school at Keebra Park on the Gold Coast, for those who aren’t familiar; it’s an NRL nursery that counts Benji Marshall, Corey Norman and cross-code dual international Ben Teo among its many elite football graduates.

When I finished Year 12, I played 20’s for three years with Brisbane before joining the North Devils in the Intrust Super Cup, before Broncos offered me an excellent opportunity to join the club.

I enjoyed my time as a Bronco; I played a few seasons there, and in 2014 we made the Holden Cup grand final, which we lost to the Warriors by two points.

I relish the prospect of winning a premiership. That loss to the Warriors still sears into my psyche. I’m proud that we made the grand final, but I use the feeling that loss inspires to help motivate me to improve continuously.

When I’m part of a team that is playing finals football again, I’ll draw from that memory to cherish every minute as a chance to best the opposition and win; no matter the odds.

There is a heap of sacrifices made to get onto the field. And a lot of those sacrifices aren’t my own. Let me tell you; I have been extremely fortunate to have received support from some wonderful people on my journey to the NRL.

My girlfriend Taylah used to ask me ‘How come you have so many second Mum and Dads’? One of my best mates, his parents Jamie and Sjaan have done more for me than anyone could ever know. As a kid, I used to spend week upon week at their house during school holidays.

We are still close, and they are the people that mentored me and helped me understand why it was vital that I put money away so I could buy my first property.

Of course, my parents did a lot too. I don’t feel as though I have done enough to thank these special people for the sacrifices they have made to help me get to the NRL. I’m tough on myself, and I don’t want to let anyone down, especially the people that I have just mentioned.

I remember when I first walked into Origin camp and looked at all the great players around me; Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, players like that. I soaked it all in and only then did I start worrying about the game.

My family are big supporters of the Maroons, and I grew up watching Origin. As a kid, I watched the games on TV and wondered what it must feel like to run out into the furnace of an Origin cauldron.

Now that I have done that, I still can’t articulate just how it feels to represent Queensland alongside such great players! Especially at Suncorp stadium; the fans are dressed in Maroon, cheering us on and baying for the Blues’ blood.

The roar and the thunder of the crowd give you goosebumps. You have to be in a player’s shoes to feel what it is actually like, but it is one of the best feelings in the world.

It makes you want to do everything you can to ensure you earn the privilege of doing it again.

It’s also great to play Origin alongside my good mate Jarrod Wallace.

Last year Jarrod took me under his wing and helped me as much as he could. He’s a great role model because, like me, he came down from the Broncos and grasped the opportunity to play for the Titans; he’s a great competitor and has made the Origin side since 2017.

Jarrod is a crucial reason why I travelled down the M1 to play for the Gold Coast, and I am grateful that he kept badgering me and saying that I should become a Titan. If he didn’t, I don’t think half of the things that have happened would have, had he not been so persistent.

That’s one of the great things about playing footy, the friendships that will last a lifetime. Where would you be without your mates? Jarrod and I get along great, except for when we rib each other, which is most of the time!

We forge strong bonds playing in the NRL, being in the same side as Jarrod as he trains and competes, he’s always got time for emerging players and shares hints and tips so they can feel part of the group.

In the opening paragraph, I asked you to consider why players train and compete for a position on the field in a competition that is similar to gladiatorial combat.

My take on it is that we are born competitors, eyeing an opportunity to taste victory after countless hours of rugged preparation.

But that isn’t the only reason.

Rugby League allows me to make integral people in my life feel proud; I compete for them, as much as I do for myself. I’m so thankful for the sacrifices people have made and continue to make so that I can play in the NRL.

This is the part where I almost can’t help but thank my partner Taylah for all that does for me.

It’s common for NRL players to thank their partners at the end of every season, and it’s honestly because it’s hard to put into words just how much they do for us.

Last year alone Taylah was there for me during some of the more difficult times I’ve endured in the game.

When I went down with my ankle injury, there were times when I simply didn’t want to get out of bed. But she simply made each day better, and consistently puts my own needs ahead of hers.

There were times last year when, following ankle surgery, I wouldn’t have even been able to have a shower if it weren’t for her helping me.

She’s at the forefront of my mind in everything that I do, and that won’t change anytime soon.