So they’ve done it, it’s over. After eight years of torment, NSW finally derailed the mighty Queensland train, much to the delight of the 84,000-strong Sydney crowd. The Blues ended the heartache of nearly a decade of domination, and Origin II lived up to every expectation. The match truly was a spectacle. For 80 minutes, 34 of the toughest men on the planet belted the living daylights out of each other while we sat back in our lounge rooms, drank imported beers and scoffed down gourmet pizzas, screaming at the TV as if we were the head coaches of our respective teams. Ahhh yes, Origin.
So for the next 12 months NSW can enjoy the bragging rights that come with a series victory. Congratulations to Laurie Daley and his men, they put on quite a performance, and I’m sure the celebrations will continue for a while yet. As for Queensland, we will lick our wounds, regroup and head back to Suncorp Stadium ready to do it all again in three weeks.
Unfortunately though, we will be doing it without veteran three-quarter and all-round Queensland legend Brent Tate, who has succumbed to yet another knee injury. If he is forced to go under the knife, this will be the fourth knee surgery of his career – and at 32, he has a long recovery in front of him. But if Tate does decide the body has had enough and hangs up the boots, he can do so with the highest distinction. This guy is a true reflection of hard work, mental toughness and dedication, overcoming so many of football’s hurdles to earn himself 23 caps for the mighty Maroons and 26 for his country.
Born in Roma, Tate was quickly on the radar of Cyril Connell. Like so many talented kids from the bush, Tate moved to Brisbane to further his career and after impressing with Broncos feeder club the Redcliffe Dolphins, Wayne Bennett was convinced he had another superstar on his hands. He was right. Tate made his Broncos debut in Round 21 of 2001; in 2002, he was named in the Queensland side for Origin decider after just 14 NRL games; and as if this wasn’t enough, he made his Test debut for Australia and was named the Broncos’ rookie of the year with 10 tries in 23 games.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Tate, however, as injures have plagued his career. In 2004 while playing for the Broncos, he suffered a neck injury that nearly cut the champion centre three-quarter’s career short. But, like true champions do, Tate played on with the aid of a specially-made neck brace and defied all odds – not only to play again, but to walk back into both the Australian and Queensland sides just a season later.
The 2006 season would prove a massive one for Tate. Again starting the season late through injury, he was nevertheless selected for Queensland. In game three, Tate was inspirational, proving to be a constant threat down the right-hand edge, eventually scoring a brilliant long-range try, mesmerising us all with his blistering pace. That try would not only put vital points on the board for Queensland, it would swing the momentum of the game in the trailing Maroons’ favour. That famous Darren Lockyer try followed to seal the series for Queensland, the shield heading north to where it would take up residence for the next eight years, while Tate was named man-of-the-match. Tate went on to repeat that freakish form for the Broncos in the 2006 Grand Final, again proving to be a match-winner. The Broncos were crowned premiers after their 15-8 upset of Melbourne, with Tate scoring a crucial second half try.
In 2008, Tate took on a whole new challenge – possibly the hardest of his career – leaving his beloved Broncos behind to join brother in-law Steve Price on a three-year deal at the New Zealand Warriors. His tenure in Brisbane was cut short by a season-ending knee injury during the 2007 Origin series, while he ruptured his ACL again in Round 3 of 2009. But Tate recovered to captain the Warriors briefly in 2010 following injuries to Simon Mannering and Steve Price.
Having the (c) next to his name would not be enough to keep Tate in the land of the long white cloud, instead opting to return to his home state with the North Queensland Cowboys, a decision he admits was “the hardest of his career”.
In a devastating case of déjà vu, his start at the Cowboys was delayed, not debuting for his new club until Round 19 of 2011 after again rupturing his ACL playing for the Kangaroos in the previous year’s Four Nations final. Anyone else may have just walked away, but Tate again defied the odds, bravely pushing on and playing a starring role for the Cowboys,Queensland and Australia.
In the 2013 Origin decider, Tate not only won the man-of-the-match award – just the third player in history after Lewis and Langer to collect the gong in multiple deciders – but produced a typically inspirational performance in the 12-10 victory to receive the Peter Jackson Medal for his long service to Queensland. He topped it off by also fulfilling his lifelong dream, getting the Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal for playing his 20th Origin for Queensland. “I am so happy to have this award,” Tate said after the game. “Honestly I am so proud, I am the proudest Queenslander getting around let me tell you”.
If Tate does decide to call it quits, I think it’s safe to say he left nothing in the tank; I speak for all Queenslanders when I wish this legend a speedy recovery. Brent Tate will be remembered with the likes of Wally Lewis, Allan Langer, Gorden Tallis and Darren Lockyer – and rightly so, he has truly earned Maroons LEGEND status.
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