NSW rookie’s stunning Origin reveal

NRL Rd 7 -  Panthers v Tigers
Dylan Edwards will make his Origin debut for NSW. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It’s the debut that’s been four years in the making, but Dylan Edwards’ first game for the Blues will hold extra meaning with the rookie fullback set to tick off another personal milestone with his first NSW appearance doubling up as the first State of Origin game he’s ever been to.

The humble kid from Dorrigo didn’t grow up wearing a blue wig in the stands at Sydney’s biggest venue, but he has gotten used to Accor Stadium with Penrith playing three of their four grand finals at the ground.

It’s become his second home and it’s fitting that he gets to make his Origin debut at a ground where he’s forged some of his best memories in footy.

He’ll be hoping to add more chapters to his incredible story, with Edwards getting the nod for the series opener after new coach Michael Maguire went with the hot hand over long-time Blues skipper James Tedesco.

It can’t have been easy for someone who has bled blue for so long, but true to form, Tedesco reached out immediately to congratulate the new fullback.

New South Wales State of Origin Media Opportunity
It’s taken 28 years, but Dylan Edwards will finally get to attend a State of Origin match. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

“He didn’t need to do it all, but he was one of the first people to message me,” said Edwards, who leads the NRL in running metres and is second in tackle busts.

“He just told me to go out and kill it because I deserve it, and to enjoy the week because Origin is the best.

“It was a class act from Teddy and you expect nothing less from him. He’s represented this state really well, and if I can play half as well as he does then we’ll be right.”

Tedesco’s willingness to reach out in spite of what had happened tells you everything you need to know about a man who played 22-straight games for his state.

“He’s a very classy, mature person,” Roosters teammate Luke Keary said, with the five-eighth part of the NSW extended squad.

“He’s one of the best in the game and he’ll go down as one of the best fullbacks to play.

“He’s fine. He understands that nothing is given to you in this game and that you have to earn everything. Dyl has been consistent over the past five years – and so has Teddy – but you’ve got to make a choice at the end of the day.

“I haven’t spoken to him yet but I’m sure he’ll bounce back as he has throughout his whole career.”

While Maguire’s chat with Tedesco can’t have been easy, the call Edwards received was one the Panthers star will never forget.

“It’s hard to put into words because this is a childhood dream. To be able to receive a phone call from Madge, it still felt like a dream until I was able to really think it through,” he said.

2022 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Eels
Edwards received the Clive Churchill Medal after the 2022 Grand Final. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“I was driving in the car and my fiancée showed me the name that popped up on the phone. I had to take a deep breath because I figured I wouldn’t get a call if I wasn’t in the team.

“When coach told me, I was lost for words because there have been a lot of years of hard work and sacrifice from many people for me to be able to represent the state.

“I haven’t been to an Origin game so this will be my first one. Hopefully there are 80,000 there.”

Edwards will be surrounded by plenty of former and current Panthers teammates who have followed his journey, with Penrith co-captain Isaah Yeo delighted to see his hard work pay off.

“I feel like this was the last thing for him to knock off,” he said.

“He’s won grand finals, he’s won the Clive Churchill Medal and he’s played for Australia, and I feel like over the past few years he’s been noticed a lot more by the public who have started to understand the work he puts into it.

“I feel like he’s made for this environment because the harder the game gets, the better he goes.”