Friend always made for Queensland Origin

Scott Bailey
·2-min read

Jake Friend had to endure the longest wait in State of Origin history to make his debut, but there can be no questions heading into Game II that he is a worthy Queensland player.

For so long the understudy to Cameron Smith, Friend entered Wednesday's Origin after 263 NRL games for the Sydney Roosters - the most of any debutant ever.

And in a team of eight rookies, his experience on debut shone through.

He was as solid as ever in defence getting through 54 tackles, while he also ran out of dummy-half more than he did all year for the Roosters.

There had been question marks before the series over what direction the Maroons would go in the No.9 jumper.

Ben Hunt started there last year, while Harry Grant is the young up-and-comer expected to hold the jersey well into the future.

"You always wonder (if it's over)," Friend said.

"Obviously I am getting on. It is a young squad and they could have gone with your debutants all over the park.

"But it was never something that weighed me down.

"It's something I have always wanted to do. It lived up to everything I thought it would be.

"It was fast and tough but it's a style of footy I have always wanted to be involved in and I've loved watching for all these years."

Friend's debut wasn't going to be missed either, with the 30-year-old a popular figure at the Roosters after years of being so near yet so far.

The likes of former teammate Aidan Guerra flew into Adelaide to celebrate his breakthrough appearance, surprising the hooker hours before kick-off.

"Mum and dad came down. My fiancee (Jenna) and a couple of mates - Aidan and one of my other mates surprised me," he said.

"To be honest I only found out Aidan and my other good mate Josh were coming down at 4.30pm.

"My fiancee sent me a photo of them on the plane and said these two are coming as well.

"We can't see them but to have them here, they love it, it was important to them."

But like the veteran he is, Friend is urging Maroons players to move on quick from the Adelaide success as they aim to clinch the series in Sydney on Wednesday.

"It was a first Origin and a first win. You have to celebrate your wins," he said.

"But after (Thursday) it is back to prep and getting ready for game two.

"We know it is a series.

"Another week will do us good. There is plenty of stuff to work on. I do think we can get a lot better."