NRL.com's Kangaroos Before Origin 13
The staff writers at NRL.com recently brought you an all-star* line-up of 13 players who represented Australia in rugby league but despite pulling on the green and gold in a Test match were never picked for NSW or Queensland in an Origin game, despite being eligible and available.
With the Four Nations upon us and the likes of Jake Friend and Jake Trbojevic set to join recent debutants Valentine Holmes and Shannon Boyd in representing country before state, they've again dug through the archives to bring you a list of 13 players who donned green and gold before eventually making their Origin debuts, with a few surprising names thrown in.
*Not necessarily 'all-star'
1. Karmichael Hunt – 41 days
Just six weeks separated the Test and Origin debuts of 2004 Dally M rookie of the year Hunt. Despite starting at fullback for Australia in the May trans-Tasman fixture – a big 50-12 thrashing – he wasn't picked for Origin I shortly after with incumbent Matt Bowen preferred. A narrow loss saw him brought in for a big 30-6 win though he missed the historic Darren Lockyer-inspired decider victory after picking up an injury for the Broncos in between Games One and Two.
2. Hazem El Masri – 1,727 days
A whopping five years before his sole Origin game in which he scored 10 points (a try and three goals) in the Blues' 2007 dead rubber win after the door was opened by an injury to Jamie Lyon, Bulldogs point-scoring legend El Masri played his one and only Test in green and gold. He kicked four goals in Australia's 32-24 win over the Kiwis in a one-off Test at Wellington in 2002.
3. Dylan Walker – 586 days
Walker was a slightly controversial inclusion both in the 2014 Four Nations then again on the NSW bench for Origin I in 2016, two years later. To his credit he shook off the disappointment of that sub-10-minute stint to acquit himself admirably marking up against close mate Greg Inglis in an 80-minute game at centre in Origin II three weeks later.
4. Mark Gasnier – 1,005 days
Gasnier was a regular in the Test and Origin teams from roughly 2004-2008 before heading off for a spell in the 15-man code. However his first ever Test match came four years before his second, and three years before his Origin debut, when he scored a try in a 54-12 romp over the PNG Kumuls at Port Moresby in 2001.
5. David Williams – 228 days
Has there been a player who's enjoyed more of a dream run to start their top-grade career than former Manly cult winger Williams? The Wolfman scored 14 tries in 20 games in his debut 2008 season, capped off with a premiership with Manly, scoring a try in a 40-0 grand final thrashing of the Storm. He was swept into the Test team for a World Cup campaign, scoring a hat-trick on debut against PNG. He crossed for another in the final though Australia went down to the Kiwis. His Origin debut came the following year and while he scored in both his appearances (a Game Two loss that handed the series to Queensland and the Game Three dead rubber win), it ultimately proved the end of his senior rep career.
6. Todd Carney – 565 days
Former Roosters pivot Carney's 2010 Dally M-winning season resulted in a Four Nations call-up where he played his first and only Test alongside Cooper Cronk in the Aussie halves. His 2012 Origin debut came alongside (by then former) clubmate Mitchell Pearce where he played all three games in a series that was narrowly lost – by a single Cronk field goal in a 21-20 decider.
7. Cooper Cronk – 957 days
Cronk's been a very good player for a very long time but the players who delayed the start of his Origin career – Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston – were the same pair keeping him out of the Test side. Despite that his green and gold debut came three years before his Maroons one when he played the one-off Test in Wellington in 2007. He partnered fellow Test debutant Greg Bird (remember Bird excelled at five-eighth for NSW earlier that year) in the halves in the absence of the injured Lockyer and Thurston before being phased into the Maroons outfit from 2010. The two halves were among eight debutants for an injury-ravaged Roos side in that game but you wouldn't have known it from the 58-0 score-line.
8. Mark Carroll – 1,784 days
The great 'Spud' Carroll was a representative star through the mid-90s but he actually played his first Test in 1990, five years before he became a regular in both green and gold as well as sky blue. He came off the bench against France in a 34-2 win in 1990 as part of the home-and-away group stages of the 1989-92 World Cup. The Blues hard-man added eight more Tests and seven Origins between 1995 and 1999.
9. Danny Buderus – 314 days
Buderus's Origin career stretched later into his overall career than his time in the Test side thanks to the emergence of one Cameron Smith. However a year before Buderus's Origin career kicked off he replaced Knights club-mate Andrew Johns (who actually enjoyed quite a long career in the green and gold No.9 jersey in between the reigns of Geoff Toovey and Buderus) at hooker for the Kangaroos. It was bad news at the time for Brett Kimmorley, who lost the halfback gig to Johns, though he went on to fight his own way back into the Test team.
10. Antonio Kaufusi – 187 days
Ok, hands up who remembered the eldest Kaufusi brother represented Queensland and Australia? The Tonga international's 13-year top-line career across seven NRL and Super League clubs featured the 2007 and '08 grand finals with Melbourne plus a Test debut for Australia in 2006 after being called up to replace the injured Reni Maitua (whose only Test featured in our previous list of Kangaroos who never played Origin). Kaufusi's only game in green and gold was followed by a single outing for Queensland the following year, called up to replace the injured Carl Webb, who returned for the next game to effectively end Kaufusi's one-game Origin career.
11. Ben Creagh – 1,300 days
Long-serving Dragon Creagh barely missed an Origin between 2009 and 2012 but his Test career was a bit of a contrast – two games, six years apart, the first of those all the way back in 2005. He started in the back row in a big 44-12 win against France – a game sandwiched into the 2005 Tri-Nations between Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. He also featured in the 2011 trans-Tasman win over the Kiwis.
12. Tony Williams – 221 days
It's technically possible big 'T-Rex' can add to his five Kangaroos caps and three Origins for NSW if he reinvigorates his career, though adding to his four Test starts for Tonga looks a more likely route if he's to continue at the senior rep level. Williams' shift from the backline to the back row was an early tackle-busting revelation, resulting in a 2011 Four Nations campaign as well as three Origins staggered between Game One 2012 and Game One 2014, but consistency at the top level halted the rep chances of the former Parramatta, Manly and Canterbury giant.
13. Nik Kosef – 597 days
Manly and Northern Eagles stalwart Kosef kicked off his Test career in the green and gold No.13 jersey in the 1995 World Cup where he played three of his eight Tests a solid two years before his first Origin call-up. He started all three games of the 1997 series at lock in the Blues' successful campaign, going on to play eight Origins.
Honourable mentions: Josh Mansour, Daly Cherry-Evans, Jamie Lyon, Dean Young, Israel Folau, Braith Anasta, Terry Campese, Michael Buettner, Eric Grothe Junior
This article first appeared on NRL.com