The Move Behind Peats' Origin Rise
Debutant Blues hooker Nathan Peats is hoping to get through 80 minutes on Wednesday night in what he says will no doubt be the toughest game he has ever played – but he's not convinced he'd even be there had he not been forced out of Parramatta last season.
The tumultuous period, which saw the passionate blue-and-gold hooker forced out to join the Titans after becoming the fall guy for the sins of the club's now-deregistered administrators' rorting of the salary cap, could have derailed Peats.
Instead it made him stronger and helped evolve his game.
"It feels like maybe I mightn't have made it if I didn't leave… It's funny how the world works," Peats said.
"Everything happens for a reason... I believe I was playing all right footy [at Parra]. I've always been in the [Origin frame] the last couple of years but I've changed my style a bit since I've been at the Titans. I've changed a bit in attack.
"I'm kicking the ball a lot more and offering a bit more I think. At Parramatta I was that harder style player just trying to whack people and [provide] early service.
"I'm still that player but I'm a lot more confident since I got up [to the Titans]. I don't know if that made a difference in me getting picked or not."
Peats's ejection from Parramatta seemed all the more rough given what he put his body through for the club.
He made a habit of ignoring self-preservation to inspire teammates. He once played on after fracturing a vertebra and also memorably dislocated an elbow trying to swing a hard low tackle on runaway Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo.
There are plenty of other examples of Peats's toughness but, speaking to media from Blues camp in Kingscliff, a more sensitive side was on show as Peats recalled choking up addressing teammates and telling them what this debut means for him and his family.
"My first dream was to play first grade and I achieved that and this is my next big step and obviously to win a grand final is the last one remaining now. I'm going to give it everything I've got next week.
"I love Origin and always have since I was a kid. I'm nervous but I'm excited at the same time."
Peats recalled his emotional address to teammates and why it all caught up with him at the time.
"Origin means a hell of a lot to me. This is what I've been working hard for my whole career and putting my family through a lot of stuff, especially my partner," Peats said.
"All the injuries and form, when I was at Souths being in and out of first grade, they've been by my side the whole time. People think footy players are invincible but without a good support system at home, I probably wouldn't be where I am today.
"I think that all got the best of me and got me a bit choked up because I know how much it means to me and I know how much it means to them too so I want to make them proud and I guess it got me."
It was also special telling his father, former Rabbitohs and Bulldogs first grader Geordi Peats.
"They're pretty happy for me as every parent would be for a player who makes Origin. He knows how hard I've worked and I've had a whirlwind 18 months with the Parramatta thing and coming up to the Titans. If I looked back then I probably thought I never was going to play Origin.
"My family has been through it all with me. Not just injuries but leaving a club, being told you're going to lose 12 points last year – it was a build-up and I guess that's why it got the best of me the other day."
Peats is adamant he was unfazed by a hectic team announcement that saw Penrith's Peter Wallace preferred as Blues hooker before being quickly ruled out with a groin strain, leaving Peats to make his long-awaited debut.
"I'm a big believe in fate. I wasn't stressing about it. If I play, I play, if he's out, he's out. I wasn't praying for him to not play or anything like that," Peats said.
"Thankfully for me it worked out all right for me [but it was] unfortunate for him. That's footy sometimes, isn't it? We've all been through it."
When it comes to Wednesday night, Peats is expecting that as a player making his debut in the middle of the field he will be tested like never before by a ferocious Queensland side.
"It's going to be a tough one. I'm preparing for the toughest game of my life," Peats said.
"I've only played in a few finals games, I've never played in an NRL grand final but I'm sure it's that sort of level and a little bit more.
"I'm preparing for the toughest night of my life. I think that's the way I've got to approach it because I've never been there before."
This article first appeared on NRL.com