Billy Slater reflects on first Origin win as QLD Maroons debutants shine bright

Billy Slater has reflected on his first win as QLD Maroons coach, as three of his debutants produced stellar displays in an upset 16-10 win over New South Wales.

Slater – who was coaching the first senior game of his career in the toughest of arenas – blooded four fresh faces in front of a packed house at Accor Stadium.

Reuben Cotter played the entire 80 minutes, while the impact of Patrick Carrigan off the bench changed the game for the Maroons.

QLD MAROONS GAME 1 PLAYER RATINGS

Speaking to the media after the game, Slater opened up on his emotions and his connection with the Queensland group as a coach, after spending over a decade in the side as a player.

“I was really nervous – I didn’t know how I was going to feel,” he said.

“When I was getting ready at the hotel, I felt like I was playing. I’m just so proud – I’m proud to be a Queenslander, I’m really proud to be a coach of that group of players.

“Some of the performances – there is not much between these two teams – it comes down to small moments, but they are big moments and there were a lot of them out there.

“I didn’t know how I was going to feel about this group, I have never coached before – but they feel like my family already – I’m not saying that just to say it, I feel a real connection to these guys.

“They’ve been outstanding all week. There’s a real comradery amongst the group, I knew the week went well, I knew the preparation went well – we just had to go out and perform.

“It’s hard not to focus on the result, but it’s important not to focus on the result, if that makes sense.

“The result will take care of itself, we just need to play well.”

Queensland’s four debutants all had very different roles to play on the night, but it was Carrigan who perhaps received the most plaudits.

The 24-year-old came off the bench in the 15th minute and played out the remainder of the clash, running for 183 metres and making 34 tackles.

Combine that performance with lock-forward Cotter, who finished with over 50 tackles in his 80-minute debut, and it left the coach with a huge smile on his face.

“We knew when he (Carrigan) was on the field, didn’t we? We didn’t have to put it on the big screen,” Slater said.

“His first carry was a real momentum shift for us, and it was probably one of our best sets in the first-half off the back of Patty’s carry. He comes out and makes a real statement with his defence, he is a real player.

“There are some good forwards up there at the Broncos, but Patty Carrigan is a leader amongst them and that was a great debut.

“Reuben Cotter played 80 minutes, he made 51 tackles in his first Origin. I’m not talking about him, because we expect it and we expect that from Reuben Cotter, don’t we?

“He is Queensland.”

Jeremiah Nanai had more of a disrupted debut, rolling his ankle and leaving the field during the second-half, while young winger Selwyn Cobbo had a moment of magic to set up Dane Gagai’s try.

Slater was impressed with both debutants – who between them have less than 40 games of NRL experience.

“I’ve rolled my ankle before…it’s no good. What a tough performance to come back, he is 19 years old – that’s a really tough performance,” he said on Nanai.

“I just walked past him – he was sitting there eating a pizza and he’s got ice on his ankle.

“He (Cobbo) is a player – he is a young man from Cherborg. You could imagine the Aboriginal community of Cherborg right now.

“One of their own has just played for Queensland in a wonderful performance, set up that first try – he can do that stuff. He did a lot of other good stuff out there as well.  

“There are some proud boys in that dressing room right now and they deserve to be.”

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