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A candid Cameron Munster is ready to own the State of Origin arena, admitting he “just hoped it would happen” in the lackluster Queensland Series defeat last year.
The five-eighth pivot spent a month at a wellness center to address gambling and alcohol issues, checking in and footing the bill after last year’s infamous white powder scandal left him almost cost his contract with the Melbourne NRL.
He returned for pre-season training in the best shape of his career and, still under a club-imposed drinking ban, was reflecting on Camp Maroon ahead of next Wednesday’s series opener at Sidney.
“I went into Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays with a hangover, without bringing much information to the club (Storm),” he said.
“And then come well Thursday, Friday and play at the weekend.
“Last year (during Origin) I was in and out of games hoping for this to happen.
“This year, it’s a different story; a little fitter and excited to bring a little more leadership to my role.
Munster said he would build on his strengths and aim to “run like a headless moron” as part of a new team of fit and experienced recruits.
The stage is set for Munster to make his mark and he feels the moment.
“I haven’t handed out that (good football) in the last two years; but I’m in good shape and it would be nice to go out and have a good game,” he said.
“I just want to be consistent; I get paid a lot, there’s speculation when I’m not playing well, (people ask) ‘am I worth that money?’.
Former Storm teammate and rookie coach Billy Slater says the plan will be to give Munster as much ball as possible.
“He is important for our team. I don’t know how important the series is to him, but he’s in a really good space right now,” Slater said.
“Happy off the pitch with his partner and his new baby. It has helped him on the pitch and over the last six to eight months he has been working very hard.
“He is in good physical shape and sees the game as well as he has ever seen it.
“I love watching him play”
The team trained together for the first time in Brisbane on Tuesday before heading south to the Gold Coast where they will be based ahead of next week’s opener.
Rookie winger Selwyn Cobbo lined up on the right wing, outside center Dane Gagai, with Xavier Coates switching from his regular flank to the left outside of Valentine Holmes.
Named in Issue 14, hooker Harry Grant is staying in Melbourne to battle the flu.
North Queensland halfback Tom Dearden is likely the next man if Storm’s talent isn’t fit to play.