Our girls make Origin history
RUGBY LEAGUE: Rockhampton's Jason Hetherington is no stranger to the Origin arena, having played eight games for the mighty Maroons and been part of the Queensland coaching staff for more than a decade.
But the seasoned campaigner admits there will definitely be some nerves when he strides onto North Sydney Oval tonight for the next exciting instalment of his rugby league career.
Hetherington is coach of the Queensland team who will contest the inaugural Holden Women's State of Origin match against New South Wales.
It is the first time the game has been played under the Origin brand, it was previously known as the Interstate Challenge.
Hetherington appreciates it is an incredible opportunity for the 17 talented players who will pull on the Maroon jersey tonight, among them Emu Park's Rhiannon Revell-Blair and Blackwater's Mariah Storch.
"I'm starting to get nervous now just thinking about it, just talking to you about it,” he said.
"I will be nervous, most certainly, but there will also be nerves of excitement because it's such a big thing for these girls.
"I took them to lunch with the men's Origin side this week and they rubbed shoulders with all those lads, and I think it's really starting to hit home that this is Origin for them.
"It's going to be shown live on Channel 9 so instead of having a couple of thousand in the grandstand we'll probably have a million watching it on TV as well so it's a really significant moment for them.”
The Queenslanders have been in camp for a week. Hetherington said preparations had been excellent and he expects a strong showing tonight.
"I've picked a side that's very tenacious which is the Queensland way. The girls are all very excited about wearing the Maroon jersey and I think that Queensland spirit will hold us in good stead.
"The Blues have a lot of skill and speed, especially in their back five, but I just think that being Origin it's going to come down to ticker and desire, and will and want.
"I really want the girls to embrace the moment, just savour and cherish it because in the blink of an eye the week's finished and, more importantly, the game's over.
"They've got to understand that and I've spoken to them about getting involved in the game early because it's going to be over before they know it.
"I think these games, male or female, the battle has to be won up front so I'm hoping we can do that.
"We've got some good experience up there with Heather Ballinger and Steph Hancock, our most capped player, up there in the front row.
"We've got a good side, it's well balanced. The Blues are going to be extremely tough but we're confident we will put up a good showing and give it a good crack.”
Hetherington said Revell-Blair and Storch sealed their selection with outstanding performances at the nationals on the Gold Coast.
At 17, Revell-Blair is the youngest member of the team and will start on the wing, while Storch will come off the bench.
"Mariah can cover most positions. She's just tenacious, works hard and is extremely fit,” Hetherington said.
"Rhiannon's got a really good carry on her. She reads the game really well, she's very instinctive but she's got great anticipation.”
Fellow Origin greats Allan Langer and Trevor Gillmeister will run the water for Queensland tonight.
After hopefully guiding the women to victory tonight, Hetherington will join the men's team on the weekend.
He is confident they can reverse the result of Game 1 and take the series to a decider in Brisbane.
"I really think the Blues were outstanding, one penalty and one error for the whole match.
"We had 55 missed tackles so you're not going to win a game doing that but we were still in the game. Two errors they got 12 points and we ended up losing by 10.
"The 50/50s tended to lean their way a little bit, everything tended to fall their way.
"I think the positive out of it is that Kevvie (coach Kevin Walters) didn't have to wake up on Thursday thinking, 'Geez, where do we turn from here'?”
"We just need to tighten up in a few areas, tidy things up a bit, and we'll be right in the match.”