I WOULD not call myself a 'league man'.

But if I am in Australia I will make a point to watch Origin.

So there was no reluctance when APN senior sports reporter Wayne 'Ticker' Heming asked me to grab my video camera and go down with him to the Maroons launch a Royal on the Park near Brisbane's botanical gardens.

A visual history lesson in the Maroons' victories, that looked like something from a tech-savvy kid's digital scrapbook, covered an entire bus and told us we were in the right place.

The hotel was crawling with media people and familiar faces in freshly pressed maroon polo shirts.

We were required to take part in the media briefing before the players came out.

The journalist next to me was grumbling about how he had been through hundreds of these events and there was no point seeing as everybody already knew what to do.

A team representative came out and told us not to let our interviews with the players go over two or three minutes in length.

He also explained that Darius Boyd would not be coming out to face the press.

I was surprised with what followed.

He told us that this was because we probably didn't want to talk to Darius and the feeling from past camps was mutual.

Fair enough.

Ticker later told me about 'the interview' that cemented the nature of the relationship - a forty-second clip of uncomfortable viewing where Darius responds to journalists' questions with stone-cold three-word answers.

The players came out and the marquee names had queues of journalists waiting to speak with them.

I followed Ticker around and watched him working his charm on players like Greg Inglis who didn't really want to be interviewed. (Stay tuned to see the full interview)

We also snuck onto the Queensland team's private bus when 'Mullet', the driver, walked away to get some ice.

The bus with its plush leather seats and card tables will take the players to and from training, the hotel and ultimately the big game itself.

The Queensland coach was keeping a low profile and staying away from the media after calling for cheaper Origin tickets and putting a few industry noses out of joint.

But Wayne Heming is certainly not one to walk away from a story and he managed to convince Mal to do an interview on camera.

Ticker introduced me to the Queensland coach and as we shook hands Mal asked me, "have we met before?"

Having watched him with his trademark arm guard in so many Origin games as a kid, I assured him that we hadn't.

Ticker opened with a question that made Mal chuckle and stayed clear of the ticket prices issues until we stopped filming.

"See ya at camp mate," Mal said as we walked away.



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