HE has yet to achieve his boyhood dream of playing State of Origin, but Brenton Lawrence at least has one claim to fame.
The Manly prop is the grand old daddy of Queensland’s Emerging Origin program.
While the annual pre-season camp looks to educate the bright new wave of Maroons talent, such as 19-year-old Anthony Milford, Lawrence is proof that, at age 29, your Origin dream is never dead.
“I’m the grandfather of the Emerging Origin program,” says Lawrence with a laugh after being a late addition to the 2014 squad.
“I got on the bus and everyone was on their phones and I was like, ‘OK, does no-one want to talk to me? I must be too old’.”
Now 30, Lawrence is at an age when most NRL stars are weighing up one final contract or contemplating life after football.
But then nothing about Lawrence’s footballing journey has been conventional.
He is the kid from Mackay who took up rugby league as a five-year-old in AFL-mad South Australia.
He is the Australian Schoolboys star snapped up by Canberra at age 17 who drifted off the radar.
It took another nine years, at age 26, for Lawrence to make his NRL debut for the Titans … only after bringing his footy boots while visiting a mate on the Gold Coast.
So in keeping with this bizarre script, it makes sense that while many thirty-something NRL stars are on the wane, Lawrence is on the rise.
So much so, that he still yearns to play Origin.
“Of course, the dream isn’t over for me,” Lawrence says.
“I’d love to play representative football.
“Age isn’t a barrier for me. It depends on form, I guess, it’s up to me to play good footy.
“But age has no bearing on that, we’ve seen some players play some great footy in their 30s, like Corey Parker (Broncos and Maroons forward), and I’m a late bloomer so I’m in no rush to go away.
“It was great to get a look-in at the Origin camp. It’s not a jumper by any means but the fact I’m talked about, it really does give you a little bit of a boost and make you want to train harder and then grab the jumper you don’t have yet.”
Lawrence doesn’t mind doing things the hard way.
Living in South Australia, he once went to extraordinary lengths to chase his NRL dream, driving 2400km in a 28-hour round trip for a one-day trial with the Raiders.
Because of his 13-year residence in South Australia, Lawrence’s Origin eligibility was initially up for debate, but the players he most admires typifies his passion for the Maroons.
“I loved watching Steve Renouf with his breakaway tries and then came Wendell Sailor and then came Karmichael Hunt, I loved watching him from the back,” Lawrence said.
“I loved the Broncos and Queensland stars, not to mention Darren Lockyer.”
Despite his long and winding journey, Lawrence says he never gave up hope of playing first grade. And he’s still daring to dream of Maroon.
“My grandfather once told me keep going back until they tell you not to come back,” he said.
“I lost my way a bit in Canberra, but no-one ever said to me you won’t play first grade. I’d always heard nice things, but the timing just wasn’t right.
“One day I’ll say it’s a good story but I’m living it at the moment. It’s still my dream to win a grand final and play Origin.
“It was a bit of a gamble to move to Manly but it’s been the best move I’ve made.
“When my knees and back give up on me, I’ll sit back and reflect on it.”