BY CURTIS WOODWARD
Those pesky Queenslanders are at it again and have recalled legendary utility ‘TBC’ in jumper 21.
Welcome back to State of Origin, TBC, you have been missed.
Forget the resurrection of Daly Cherry-Evans from unloved outsider to captain, the return of TBC, should send chills down the sky blue spines of Brad Fittler and his cockroach army.
TBC is no stranger to controversy – it’s followed him everywhere he’s gone.
Fans south of the border spat out their morning coffee when they heard the news that QLD coach Wayne Bennett had picked TBC to make his debut back in 2002. It was a bold strategy from Bennett who had plenty of players to pick from. Would TBC be targeted by the Blues? Would he be able to handle the pressures of the Origin arena?
With the Blues sealing the opening game of the series, QLD had their backs against the walls as they prepared for Game II at Suncorp Stadium.
Star winger Lote Tuqiri was out suspended so the Maroons turned to a rookie in TBC.
“I’m trying to work out what nationality TBC is – whether he’s a Lebanese player or what,” QLD manager director Ross Livermore laughed at the time.
Ha, ha, bloody, ha.
Nobody in NSW was laughing as TBC scored a four-pointer as the Maroons squared the series with a 26-18 win.
They then went to Sydney and snatched a last minute try to lock the scores in the deciding Game III.
To add insult to injury for the Blues, Tuqiri was “back” (cough) to miss a conversion that would have at least given the Maroons a win rather than a 18-all draw which handed the shield back to QLD.
Better still, your writer was in the crowd at Homebush that night as a 15-year-old. Dane Carlaw scored the leveling try right in front of us. Watching the old man, furiously shouldering his way back to the train station, was a sight to behold. God knows how many concussions he gave out in that five minute surge.
TBC faded into obscurity after that.
There were reports he gave the game away. Some said he’d become disillusioned by the sport and started a band called ‘To Be.. Or Not To Be’, reciting Shakespeare between sets. It was a dark time.
But you can’t keep a champion down.
He returned in 2005 when he was named in the Queensland team to take on New South Wales and a figure, eerily similar-looking to brick shithouse Tonie Carroll, trotted out for Game III. It didn’t make much difference as the Blues smashed the Maroons 32-10 with Anthony Minichiello and Andrew Johns starring.
Again, Maroons selectors blamed TBC.
TBC quite rightfully probably thought his Origin career was dead.
And then, QLD coach Kevin Walters made the call TBC thought he’d never get.
“How are you feeling old fella?” Walters asked.
TBC jumped from his recliner inside his modest Caboolture caravan, wiping old spaghetti from his face.
“I’m ready, Kev!”
So it is. TBC is back in the QLD squad.
Will he get on the field?
But it’s testament to his courage that he would once again pull that Maroons jersey on.
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