How Tom Gilbert left ‘madman’ past behind to earn a Queensland Origin debut
Queenslanders expecting Tom Gilbert to channel his inner “madman” will be sorely disappointed.
- Tom Gilbert believes learning to control himself on the field is what has led to his selection for State of Origin
- The 21-year-old will come off the bench for Queensland in next week’s decider
- Gilbert has been one of North Queensland’s best players in their rise to the top four this season
The State of Origin debutant reckons that’s not him, going as far as to say efforts to shed that tag are the reason he’ll complete a childhood dream and play in next Wednesday’s State of Origin decider.
Set to replace the unavailable Felise Kaufusi for the Suncorp Stadium clash, the in-form North Queensland forward has been billed as the fire and brimstone the Maroons need to respond to their game two thumping.
But the 21-year-old didn’t play to that narrative in a thoughtful and polite discussion with reporters on Tuesday, the shock of receiving his jersey from his mother and twin brother in camp the night earlier still sinking in.
“I’m no madman,” he said.
“It’s probably what’s helped me get this jersey this year.
“Times gone past maybe I was just not putting the energy in the right spot in my game and that was probably a distraction.
“Each week I get my job and that’s where my energy’s going and all the little stuff that happens around it just happens.”
That fits with rookie coach Billy Slater’s approach, the mentor sticking fat with his side despite a 44-12 loss in Perth that forced a game three decider.
“You’ve got to be thinking about your footy, it’s not just a bash and barge game,” Slater said.
Gilbert admitted he’s found it hard to “get back to normal” after receiving a call from Slater he never thought would come.
But the perspective remains ahead of a move to new Redcliffe NRL franchise the Dolphins next season, alongside Kaufusi.
“Funnily enough, I went to the Dolphins for the opportunity to get rep honours,” he said when asked if he now felt like a marquee player.
“But I still want to develop as a player; I’m still young and have dreams to chase.
“There will be a few more dreams and goals there (at the Dolphins) and I’ll learn off the older boys as much as I can.”
Gilbert counts Johnathan Thurston as a hero and pretended to be Darren Lockyer in the family living room growing up watching Queensland play on Wednesday nights.
“That’s what Origin was about; the long day on Wednesday till 8pm kick-off, wearing a Maroons jersey to school with my twin brother, my best mate,” he said.
“I’m definitely ready. It’s a full-circle moment in Brisbane, in my hometown in front of my family.
“There’s something about it that feels right.”
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