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Patience pays off for Friend ahead of lifelong Origin dream

There aren't too many certainties in the game of rugby league, but one of those is now Sydney Roosters Captain Jake Friend making his long awaited debut for the Queensland Maroons.

It's been a long road to the Maroons for Friend, but a unique and fulfilling journey that's included training sessions with emerging Queensland squads as well representative caps for Australia and the World All Stars. 

If he could now go back and visit his 10 year old self, who was a Queensland Maroons tragic, he'd finally be able to deliver the news that the dream is about to be fulfilled. 

Friend was named in the extended squad at the conclusion of the Roosters 2020 NRL campaign and was officially named to start at hooker for game one on Thursday night. 

He spoke to Roosters digital feeling quietly accomplished after finding out he was going to fulfil a lifelong dream on Wednesday night at Adelaide Oval

Friend is thrilled to be in the Maroons squad.
Friend is thrilled to be in the Maroons squad.

“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a little boy growing up," Friend said to Roosters digital. 

“Coming into the squad, you don’t know whether or not you’ll get a spot.

“I was pretty hopeful, and now I’m lucky enough to get a start.

“Now I’m just really excited for Wednesday, can’t wait.”

Now that it’s finally come around, I’m pumped and ready to take it on

Jake Friend

Friend talks the Origin opportunity

It seemed certain that Friend would make his Origin debut back in 2019, but he was ruled out for the majority of the season with a shoulder injury. 

Though there have been outside factors and variables along the way that kept him from a Maroons debut earlier in his career, the Roosters skipper's positive mindset has never seen him distracted by the thought of when he'll represent his state. 

“You can’t pick when you’re going to be injured, those variables will always be there and they happen.

“I’ve watched Origin for a long time, Cameron Smith was there for a long time and so he should have been.

“I was just doing my thing at Club level.

“I always wanted to play Origin, but it was never something that I worried about.

“Now that it’s finally come around, I’m pumped and ready to take it on.”

Jake Friend was confirmed in the Origin I squad this week.
Jake Friend was confirmed in the Origin I squad this week.

The last few games of the 2020 NRL season were disappointing for the Roosters, and the Roosters Captain does anything but deny that fact. 

There was a hunger for improvement when the season ended, so those who were lucky enough to be selected to play representative football post season would get an opportunity to finish the year in a good way. 

“The last few games of the season were disappointing, and that’s not how you want to go into an off season.

“You’re only as good as your last game, so it’s good that we get to go out there and play some footy.

“For my sake, hopefully we’ll (Maroons) win some games over the other boys (Roosters Blues).”

Friend will go against Cordner for the first time in his career.
Friend will go against Cordner for the first time in his career.

Friend spent the first week of camp finding his feet and adjusting to new coaches, systems and styles of training. 

Having spent all of his career mastering the Roosters training systems, it's been a unique and important learning experience for Friend to see how it's done in different circles within the rugby league umbrella. 

Despite being new to the Maroons way of life, Friend finds himself as one of the more experienced NRL players in the squad and has moulded himself into one of the leaders within the group. 

“I haven’t been involved in many of these camps, and I’ve been at the Roosters my whole career.

“I know that system in and out, so a new system and a young team is cool to see and be a part of.

“I've been lucky enough to be involved in a lot of Finals series at the Roosters, so I’ve got to draw on that experience and use that to be a leader in the sense that I’ve got plenty of big game experience.”

There are 12 debutants in the Maroons squad for game one of the series, but none more exciting to Roosters fans than the addition of Friend's Club teammate Lindsay Collins. 

Collins had an exceptional 2020 campaign for the Club and has received the rewards that come with good form and a strong work ethic. 

“It’s awesome and it’s well deserved," Friend said of Collins' selection. 

“Lindsay has been in and out for a few years for us, but this year he really stamped his spot in our team and made a difference in a lot of games.

“He suits Origin footy, the way he can come off the bench and change the momentum of a game.

“He’s professional for a young guy, this is a great reward for him and I’m happy to do it with him.”

Lindsay Collins trains for his Origin debut.
Lindsay Collins trains for his Origin debut.

Friend's representative experience has seen him line-up for the Kangaroos, the World All Stars and the Prime Minister's XIII throughout his career. 

Despite playing against world class talent, Wednesday night mark the first occasion of lining up against his Roosters teammates in a State Of Origin match. 

State Of Origin I will see Friend up against FIVE New South Wales Blues who are his teammates at Club level. 

There's a mix of emotions there in terms of how it will feel to tackle his Roosters teammates, but Friend says he's got that experience from intense training sessions at the Club.

“The way we train at the Roosters can be like playing a game at times, so I’ve had nearly all five of those guys going 100% at me at some stage.

“It will be weird, you’re with these guys day in and day out and now we’re coming up against them."

Now that Origin is a reality, it's a pretty simple and solid plan for Friend ahead of his long awaited dream debut for the state he was raised in. 

“The plan is to train, eat well, sleep well and keep it as normal as possible heading into the game.

“We can’t do a whole lot in the bubble, but hopefully a few activities here and there and keep it as chill as possible.

“It’s going to be a big game, something I’ve always dreamed of doing.

“I love the intensity of it and I’m looking forward to it.”

A Premiership winner, Kangaroos representative, World All Star, and now Queensland Maroons representative. It's a fitting cap for one of the hardest working and patient players in the NRL. 

Catch Friend and the remaining Roosters representatives when they take to the field for State Of Origin I on Wednesday night.