Bay boy soars but Qld falls in U18s Origin
A SLOW second-half start spoiled Hervey Bay Seagulls product J'maine Hopgood's State of Origin debut.
New South Wales's 35-18 win is the only sour point of the Penrith Panthers' SG Ball captain's past week as part of Queensland's under-18s Origin set-up.
Hopgood, who played his junior footy at Hervey Bay and Caloundra before he linked with Penrith, said nerves almost got the better of him before kick-off.
"I was fine when I got out there but (in the sheds) I was pretty nervous," he said.
Hopgood was a shining light in the Maroons' beaten pack, playing the full 70 minutes as injuries stacked up in the closing quarter.
"We had a few injuries which forced us to reshuffle, and we lost a half for 15 minutes for a concussion test," Hopgood said.
"The boys stuck together and had a red hot dig. It was very physical but you'd expect that with the best players from each state."
Hopgood joined his Queensland teammates at the Gold Coast on Friday last week. The side had an opposed session with Keebra Park State High School, as well as time with retired Brisbane, Maroons, and Australian centre Justin Hodges, now an assistant coach for the Broncos' U20s.
The side travelled to Sydney on Tuesday, and were presented their jerseys by fullback-turned-centre Darius Boyd.
When Hopgood took the field he had the support of siblings, parents and grandparents who travelled to ANZ Stadium to watch the Panthers captain in the biggest game of his career.
Hopgood signed a two-year extension at Penrith earlier this year, and said his goal was to now train and hopefully play for the Panthers' under-20s.