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Players unlucky not to have worn the Maroons jersey

The 2019 State of Origin series saw Ethan Lowe and Corey Norman - amongst others - make their Origin debuts for Queensland.

Both Norman and Lowe spoke about how they had aspirations to wear the Maroons jersey, but were afraid they would never get the chance, after being overlooked for selection in recent years.

Below is a list of 10 Queenslanders who have been unlucky not to have been picked to represent the great state of Queensland throughout their respective NRL careers.

  1. Jake Friend

Possibly the unluckiest player in rugby league, having sat behind Cameron Smith for most of his illustrious career. The 29-year-old dummy half has played 245 NRL games for the Sydney Roosters, and has won two premierships, four minor premierships and a world club challenge with the Sydney-based club. Friend has also played one game for the Australian Kangaroos, two games for Australia Prime Minister’s XIII, and one game for the World All Stars.

Friend looked likely to make his debut during the 2019 State of Origin series, however suffered a bicep injury in April that robbed the Roosters co-captain any chance of making his Maroons debut. 

  1. Michael Luck

A true competitor, the former North Queensland Cowboys and New Zealand Warriors enforcer was as tough as they come. Luck was one of just two players who were originally selected in the inaugural Queensland Emerging Squad in 2001 – and didn’t go on to play for the Maroons in later years.

The hard-hitting back-rower was known for his high work rate in attack and defence and in 2009, made a record breaking 74 tackles in a match against the Melbourne Storm.

Luck was 18th man for the Maroons in Game III, 2007 and played a significant role in the success of the Warriors in 2011, in their charge to the grand final. The now chief operating officer at the Cowboys was unlucky not to be selected for the Maroons over his 12-year career, where he clocked up a whopping 226 games. 

  1. Kyle Feldt 

The Cowboys flyer has been unlucky not to have already played for the Queensland Maroons. The 27-year-old has scored 68 tries in 107 NRL games and has established himself as one of the game’s best finishers. The 105kg winger is a noted performer on the big stage, having already played in two NRL grand finals with the Cowboys, including 2015 where he scored a try on the full time hooter to take the game into extra time.

Feldt has been a part of the QAS emerging program since 2015, and has been in and out of Maroons camp as part of the extended squad ever since.

  1. Jayson Bukuya

Bukuya is another current player who has been unlucky not to feature for the Queensland Maroons in recent years. Bukuya is one of those players similar to Gavin Cooper who go about their work in a quiet but consistent manner, and does not always receive the recognition or accolades they deserve.

Bukuya has long been one of the most under-rated forwards in the NRL and has shaped the success of the Cronulla  Sharks in recent years with his high work rate, powerful running game and versatility.

The Brisbane-born power forward has played 185 NRL Games, won a premiership in 2016 with Cronulla, played 11 games for Fiji and was a part of the QAS emerging squads in 2016 and 2017.  

  1. Aaron Payne 

The Cowboys cult hero came close to donning the elusive Maroons jersey on several occasions throughout his career, but never quite got the opportunity sitting behind Cameron Smith for the most part of his career.

Payne played 219 NRL games for the Cowboys, including the 2005 season where he was the only Cowboys player to play in every game in their run to grand final. The Townsville-born dummy half was an under-rated player throughout his career and was often overshadowed by Cowboys superstars and fellow Queenslanders Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.

The now Townsville Blackhawks Intrust Super Cup coach was selected as part of the QAS emerging squads back in 2005 and 2006, and earned a call up for the NRL All Stars in 2012 as a replacement for an injured Cameron Smith.

  1. Kurt Capewell

Capewell may only be 58 games into his NRL career, but the Cronulla Sharks second-rower came agonisingly close to playing for the Maroons in 2019. Capewell’s greatest asset is his versatility, and was rewarded for his form with Cronulla, being selected as part of the Maroons extended squad for Game I and II  during this year’s series.

  1. Ashley Graham

Graham is yet another Cowboys player who was extremely unlucky not to represent his beloved state of Queensland throughout his 202-game NRL career. Originally from Cairns, the former Cowboys and Parramatta Eels flyer was a noted try scorer, finishing his career with 101 tries at a strike rate of 50 per cent.

In 2011, Graham was labelled the most underrated player in the NRL and came close to representing the Maroons that year, but just missed out after Brisbane Broncos flyer Jharal Yow Yeh was named to make his debut for Queensland. At the end of 2012, Graham tied equal first with Canterbury Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba for most tries in the regular season with 21.

  1. Scott Bolton

The North Queensland forward has long been a consistent mainstay in the forward pack for the Cowboys. Bolton joined the Cowboys as a teenager and represented the Junior Kangaroos and Queensland Under 19 sides in 2005 and 2006.

In 2010, Bolton’s fine form for the Cowboys was recognised by Maroons coach Mal Meninga and he was rewarded with selection in the 2010 QAS emerging squad. Bolton has been on the fringes of Origin selection on a number of occasions throughout his 239-game NRL career and some would argue he has been unlucky not to have had a look in for the Maroons.

  1. Brent Webb

Originally from Cairns, the former New Zealand fullback made a name for himself in the NRL after bursting onto the scene for the Warriors back in 2002. Webb played 103 games for the Warriors, where he scored 39 tries and kicked 27 goals. Webb was eligible to play for Queensland, however played in the same era as Matt Bowen, Rhys Wesser, Billy Slater and Clinton Schifcofske, so never quite got a look in and ultimately pledged his elegance to New Zealand.

Webb was selected in the 2002 QAS emerging squad and was known for his versatility having spent time at five-eighth, hooker, centre and fullback throughout his time with the Warriors. The Cairns product played 17 games for New Zealand, where he scored nine tries and kicked 10 goals, and was part of the Kiwis squad that won the 2005 rugby league tri nations.

  1. Nathan Friend

The 85kg hooker played well above his weight during his 242-game NRL career, which spanned 15 years. The Toowoomba-born dummy half played for the Broncos, Melbourne Storm, Warriors and Gold Coast Titans.

Friend was a noted defender with a strong running game and spark out of dummy half. The former Titan played through the Cameron Smith era, similar to fellow Queenslanders Matt Ballin and Aaron Payne, and you can forge an argument as to why he was unlucky not to feature for Queensland at some point in his illustrious career.


Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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