THE chance to wear the Queensland jumper once donned by his boyhood idol has convinced Josh McGuire to spurn a Test guernsey with New Zealand.
Queensland’s injury crisis during this year’s failed Origin campaign had a silver lining. The spate of casualties prompted Maroons hierarchy to prepare for the future by adding McGuire to their extended squad for Origin III, in the process unwittingly repelling the Kiwi threat.
On the eve of the 2014 Origin series, New Zealand hierarchy had identified McGuire as the ideal prop to blood for the end-of-year Four Nations tournament starting in October.
McGuire had every reason to be torn. His mum was born in New Zealand. His dad, Adam, is a Sydney boy from Blacktown who spent almost 30 years in the Australian military.
The path to a Kiwi jumper was somewhat easier, but McGuire’s fondest childhood memories include Maroons legend Shane Webcke charging through the rucks in the No.8 jumper.
McGuire now wears Webcke’s decorated jumper at the Broncos, and he knows another bumper season in 2015 could see him emulate Brisbane’s greatest prop.
“It would be a dream come true to wear Webby’s Queensland jumper one day,” McGuire said.
“No one can ever be as good as him, but I’ll try and play my way and he was one guy who definitely inspired me in my early years.
“He had a bit to do with the club when I came through and he’s the greatest front-rower to play the game in my eyes.
“I loved watching Webcke and also Andrew Gee (former Broncos and Maroons prop), I liked the way they went about their business.
“Mum would have loved me to play for New Zealand – she was born in Auckland – but my dad would have something to say about that.
“It would have been easy to chase a Test jumper but there has to be a meaning to it. My allegiance is to Queensland. I’m a Brisbane boy and while three of my brothers were born in NSW, I’ve always felt a Queenslander.”
One of six hulking boys that push their parents’ grocery bill to the limit, McGuire was nearly lost to the Blues. The family moved to NSW for 10 years due to his father’s military requirements, but McGuire returned to the Sunshine State at the right time.
“I moved to NSW when I was two and then back to Brisbane when I was 12,” McGuire said.
“I didn’t start playing footy until I was 14 so I played my first footy in Brisbane. I played roller hockey and ice hockey before that, I was lucky I was bigger than everyone so I liked smashing blokes.
“Origin time is crazy. My mum sits on the fence as a Kiwi, me and my two older brothers Jacob and John Paul go for the Maroons and the other three (Joseph, Michael and Zac) go for NSW.
“She’s a hectic household … if we were dogs, we’d be muts.”
Having put his calf injuries behind him, McGuire has been outstanding this season. He has averaged 128 metres and a whopping 38 tackles per game for the
Broncos and says his Origin call-up has galvanised his self-belief.
“It was a great learning experience being part of the Queensland set-up,” said McGuire, who was overlooked for the Emerging Origin squad in January.
“Going into camp with all the great players like Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis and to taste and experience what they have built, it was a very humbling experience and it makes you want to work hard to get that Queensland jumper.
“I don’t know if this is my best year yet but it’s the first season in a long time that I haven’t been injured.
“I’ve been pretty lucky to avoid injury but I’ve been pretty committed to my rehab. I won’t be at my best every week but I try and gauge myself against the best players and I’m happy with how I’m going.”