When I am asked to describe that it means to be a Queenslander, the first thing that comes to me would be pride.
Growing up in Bundaberg, in Queensland, everywhere in Queensland… it’s all about rugby league and State of Origin.
From a very young age, I was there watching Origin, all through the early 2000s.
I was lucky enough that me older brother Antonio played his first game at Suncorp Stadium and I was able to see that live.
And I have the memories of watching the good players – Darren Lockyer, I loved Lockyer, even Billy Slater to be honest, and playing with him was even more surreal.
But the one word that comes to mind would be that sense of pride.
When Antonio was picked, it felt like our whole family were rock stars.Felise Kaufusi FOG #195
The News-Mail came out and took a big picture for the paper, it was a big thing.
I think all rugby league fans grow up hoping that one day they will play in the State of Origin, but for my brother to have come from a small town of Bundaberg – that means a lot.
It’s funny how we started to play rugby league – we originally were out to play union.
On sign-on day, we turn up to Bundy Brothers thinking it was rugby union, but it ended up being rugby league, so from that point on, Antonio played rugby league and the rest is history.
Growing up, when an Origin game was on, the whole street would know – I am pretty sure the neighbours would have been wanting to call the cops sometimes if we were getting a bit too rowdy and screaming at the TV.
But that sense of joy that comes out – the family were right behind Antonio and now they are right behind me, so it’s sort of history repeating itself again, and he’s also proud to see me pull on the Maroons jersey.
When I got selected to make my debut, it was massive ... you’ve got your phone there by your side, you don’t want to do it, but you have your phone there, hoping you get a phone call.
And once Kevie rang ... you try and stay nice and calm and you are trying to play it cool, but inside, you are just jumping with joy and pride.
I just couldn’t wait to tell my family first and foremost and it was just one of those feelings and it took me back to growing up as a kid, watching the games of State of Origin and riding that tide with them and so to be called up was huge.
I was like a kid jumping out, trying to play it cool – but I was excited.
The first camp was an experience, I pretty much come in by myself – I was a bit overawed.
All these emotions, coming in and seeing all the maroon around, the Maroons bus! You know what I mean? Everything maroon!
It was just pretty exciting, meeting all the other players who were there, and just coming in as a group together was exciting and I was a bit overawed.
There were a few nerves for sure being new in the group, but I maybe was not as nervous as I was in front of the media.
I was nervous doing the things that you have to do in camp, but definitely out on the field, you do feel like you are at home and you have a purpose and a reason why you got picked, so the training field was not a getaway, but it was a lot more comfortable.
Being in camp and learning about what it meant to play for Queensland, I think it hit home straight away.
I think it’s instilled in us growing up watching the Queensland team, so for me it wasn’t hard to tap into what it means to be a Queenslander – to never give up.
You are representing your state, your family, you are doing the best that you can on the day to get the win and to get the series.
The day of the game and right before kick-off – it was nerve-wracking. Holy! It was probably was the most nervous I have been for a game.
You are on the big stage, the biggest crowd you are going to play in front of ... but there was a sense of joy as well.
During my first game, I can’t remember my first touch – it was just a bluuuuuuuur.
It’s a blur, but I remember that sense of pride and how growing up, watching those games, you are like, I want to do the same, I want to beat the Blues.
It was a childhood dream, growing up watching Queensland and hoping one day that you would be able to pull on that jersey. It was all surreal. Definitely nerve-wracking, but exciting at the same time.
Thank you for all the support Queenslanders.
You make doing what we do even more awesome.