This article by Matt Harris originally appeared on www.gladstoneobserver.com.au at 5:00 am on Tuesday
He’s been there and done it all, 24 consecutive times to be exact.
So when Queensland State of Origin legend Gary Larson says the Maroons’ current crop of young stars are in safe hands, you tend to agree with the Gladstone-born former North Sydney Bears stalwart.
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Larson’s Origin career began as a 24-year-old in Game I of the 1991 series, he went on to play 24 consecutive games for Queensland before retiring from representative duty at the conclusion of the Maroons’ victorious 1998 series.
It was a record which stood until Johnathan Thurston broke it in 2013.
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Known as a no-nonsense, tough tackling warrior and workhorse during his hay day, Larson will long be remembered as one of the Maroons’ greatest servants.
Despite all the blood, sweat and tears toiled for Queensland throughout his eight years in the Origin arena, 50-year-old Larson still jumps off his couch in excitement while supporting his beloved Maroons.
While there are naturally some nerves watching the game on television, Larson has full faith in Queensland’s youngsters to produce the goods in the 2017 series decider at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night.
“I’m very keen to see how young Cameron Munster handles it, I think he’s a star of the future and an excellent prospect,” Larson said.
“Michael Morgan as well, they are all the future of the team and they’ve got to be blooded sometime and we’ll just see how they go.
“All they have to do is take their club form into the game. They play against these guys week in, week out and it’s just a little bit faster, that’s all it is.”
Larson predominately played as a back-rower during his 249-game first-grade career but was named at prop in the Bears’ Team of the Century.
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The Gladstone Port Authority employee is no stranger to hard work and backs the Maroons’ engine room to get the job done against a New South Wales pack oozing with size, speed and talent.
“You’ve got blokes like Dylan Napa who is like a sponge – the respect he’s got for Cameron Smith – you just want to play with those players and feel more confident when those players are around you. If those more experienced players are there and they’re playing well you’ll lift that’s for sure.
“It’s great that (Napa) is still young and you’ve also got Jarrod Wallace and Tim Glasby – we needed some fresh legs even though Sam Thaiday and Jacob Lillyman have been cornerstones of the Queensland pack for a long time.
“NSW have young forwards and they’re starting to run over us and starting to get Origin experience up and that’s evident this series.
“They are red-hot NSW so we’re going to have to be at our best, again, on Wednesday night to beat them.”
Larson also rates Broncos pair Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett highly.
“Matt Gillett is just a worker and you’ve got to have workers in Origin. You cannot afford not to have a couple of workers in your forward pack,” Larson said.
“Josh McGuire is like that. In the second half of Game II, he was outstanding – he was putting his hand up and taking the ball forward and the same with Dylan Napa.
“That’s what it’s all about if no one else wants to take the ball forward in Origin you’ve got to be there to take it forward and not standing out wide combing your hair.”
Larson predicts Origin III to be a close contest but (in no surprise) is tipping the Maroons to win by eight points.