The National – Wednesday, June 15, 2011
SYDNEY: Mark Gasnier’s return path to the NRL less than a year ago appears to have been paved with gold so far, but his “Midas touch” will get its toughest test tonight at ANZ Stadium as the NSW Blues attempt to end Queensland’s Origin dominance.
Gasnier, 29, one of only three players in the current Blues’ line-up to have played in the last NSW team to win an Origin series in 2005, would cap an incredible return to the game after almost two years’ absence playing rugby in France with a win.
Since his return for the Dragons in July last year, Gasnier (and the Dragons) have won the 2010 Telstra Premiership plus the 2011 World Club Challenge title and they currently lead the 2011 Premiership following a club record nine-game winning streak.
On a personal level, Gasnier was recalled to the Blues, and between Games I and II of the series, his wife Claudine gave birth to their first child, a son called Kalani.
A win tonight will put Gasnier and the Blues just 80 minutes away from potential Origin glory, and his golden touch would be hard to deny if they can end the Maroons’ five-series winning streak in Game III at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on July 6.
But the Blues’ second-most capped player admits that 10 months into his NRL return last month he did not expect to get the chance to add to his nine NSW caps, nor has it been easy.
He has now played in 10 Origin games in 2004-06, 2008 and 2011, as well as 15 Tests for Australia and 163 games for the Dragons.
“I hoped I would get the chance, but I really didn’t know if I would play again,” Gasnier said.
“I was confident in my ability, although there was a lot of work to be done.
“There is always good young players coming through and you never know where you are in the pecking order.”Gasnier said it was exciting to be back in rep football in the latter stages of his career, particularly with all the hype surrounding the series this year.
“It is definitely true that when you are older as far as your career goes you look at it in a different light; you value it more and know it’s not a given.
“When you are new, it’s like you are in a system and it just happens.
“You don’t realise then that it is a special system.”
Gasnier said he could not be happier with the successes of the past 12 months, but they did not come easily.
“When the opportunity presented itself to come back I knew how well the guys (Dragons) were going and it was really exciting to be part of that,” Gasnier said.
“I didn’t want to waste it. I knew I had a lot of hard work to do with the way my body was coming back from France.
“What I have achieved in the past 12 months is everything I hoped and planned to.
“It has been hard work but it’s very rewarding where I am now.
“I would love nothing more than to help the Blues win this Origin series and make the fans happy for a change.” – AAP