NRL 2022: Origin heroics to fast-track Pat Carrigan’s Broncos captaincy bid

He was thrust into a makeshift captaincy during the Broncos’ dark days, but Pat Carrigan showed why he’s a genuine future skipper after his dream Origin debut.

Pat Carrigan’s dream Origin debut could fast-track his ascendancy to the Broncos’ captaincy after the Maroons workhorse enhanced his claims for Brisbane’s top job.

Carrigan will back-up his Queensland heroics for the Broncos by running out alongside fellow Origin reps Payne Haas and Selwyn Cobbo at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night against the rising Raiders, with Blues centre Kotoni Staggs (shoulder) to be rested.

It was less than 72 hours ago that Carrigan announced himself in rugby league’s toughest arena with one of the great Origin debuts by a Maroons forward.

The Broncos lock changed the game with his impact from the bench, racking up 18 runs for 165m and 27 tackles in a 65-minute effort that had him in contention for man-of-the-match honours.

Carrigan, 24, has long been viewed as a future captain at Red Hill, with former coach Anthony Seibold putting him in the club’s leadership group following his NRL debut in 2019.

A physiotherapy student and well-spoken, Carrigan has the right image and character to captain an NRL powerhouse like the Broncos.

However the jury was still out on whether he was truly an elite player – until Wednesday night.

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Pat Carrigan had a dream Origin debut, terrorising the Blues as he ran for 165 metres and made 27 tackles after coming off the bench. Picture: Getty Images.
Pat Carrigan had a dream Origin debut, terrorising the Blues as he ran for 165 metres and made 27 tackles after coming off the bench. Picture: Getty Images.

Carrigan’s rapid response from a serious knee injury last year has thrust his name firmly into captaincy contention at the Broncos.

Halfback Adam Reynolds will lead the club for at least the next two years and Maroons forward Kurt Capewell has deputised in Reynolds’ absence.

However, Carrigan is firmly in the mix for the full-time captaincy honours, joining an illustrious list of players to have led the Broncos like Darren Lockyer, Allan Langer and current coach Kevin Walters.

Reynolds, 31, is contracted until the end of 2024 but whether the Sydney product retains the captaincy until he retires or Walters looks to usher in a new Broncos leader while he is still playing remains to be seen.

Brisbane-born and bred, Carrigan has all the attributes to lead the Broncos when the time is right, according to head of football Ben Ikin.

“Patty is always going to be a leader,” Ikin said.

“He is in the senior players’ group now and it will be Kevvie’s decision once Reyno decides to hang up the boots who gets the captaincy.

“Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m sure if he’s given the opportunity Patty would nail it. Between now, and if that happens, he just needs to keep learning and growing the way he has done up to this point.

“It won’t be something he has to force because the learning aspect and doing everything you can to be better is something he enjoys.”

Carrigan has already experienced the Broncos captaincy, but is a firm favourite to be the first choice after Adam Reynolds retires or steps down. Picture: NRL Imagery.
Carrigan has already experienced the Broncos captaincy, but is a firm favourite to be the first choice after Adam Reynolds retires or steps down. Picture: NRL Imagery.

Carrigan has already had a taste of captaining the Broncos after holding the duties at times throughout Alex Glenn’s tenure (2020-21) and late last year committed to Brisbane until 2024 amid interest from the Dolphins.

He will make his 55th NRL appearance against the Raiders and has conjured a remarkable return after missing most of last season following a knee reconstruction.

Players usually take months to find peak form after such a serious injury, but Carrigan’s resurrection has been so impressive he earned State of Origin selection and was among the best players at Accor Stadium.

That’s because Carrigan was so committed to not only getting back on the field, but returning a better player.

“Wanting to learn and get better comes natural to him,” Ikin said.

“He was not long into his rehab for his ACL when I arrived here. From early conversations I picked up pretty quickly that he was not only going to come back in better physical condition, but he also wanted to better understand how he could improve his game.

“Over the course of nine months until he worked his way back into full-time training with the squad I watched him do everything he possibly could to make sure he came back a better player.

“He knew he was a bit straight up and down as a footballer. He watched enough football and understood the game at a deep enough level to know he needed some extra tools.

“He wanted to build a pass and acknowledged that comes in different forms like being able to pass before the line, in the line, a late off-load. He wanted to become smarter at determining when to run or pass.

“He has got a great capacity to read a game and articulate what’s required both for the team and from himself.”

Carrigan is set to back up from his Origin heroics for the Broncos in Round 14. Picture: NRL Photos
Carrigan is set to back up from his Origin heroics for the Broncos in Round 14. Picture: NRL Photos

Instead of easing him in off the bench, Walters will unleash Carrigan on Canberra from the opening whistle as the Broncos chase a seventh straight win.

Having played 20 Origins himself, Walters knows the impact a Queensland jersey can have on a player’s confidence and is hoping Carrigan brings that back to Red Hill as the Broncos look to consolidate their top four position.

“I don’t think he surprised us (with his performance) given how professional he is in his preparation,” Walters said.

“He hasn’t come off the bench much in his career. It was a good way to bring Patty into Origin and everyone noticed how effective he can be in that role.

“In that camp, with all that was going on, was an ideal situation for him. They pick up little habits with how the elite players train and prepare for games. That’s what I love about Origin. We love our players being involved.

“He has always got a strong voice around the place. The best way he leads is with his actions on the field and at training.

“You have to be consistent with your football every week and Patty has been that for us this year. That’s what leadership is about.”

THE TEXT THAT INSPIRED MAROONS ORIGIN DEBUTANT

Peter Badel

Queensland hero Pat Carrigan has revealed how mentoring from former Maroons veteran Darius Boyd helped inspire the greatest game of his career in Origin I.

Cameron Munster may have claimed man-of-the-match honours but many believed Carrigan was Queensland’s best after his rampaging stint off the bench ignited the Maroons in their 16-10 upset of NSW in Origin I.

Thrown into the fray in the 16th minute, the debutant forward lifted the entire tempo of the match. Hungry and energetic, he charged for 10 runs in a 24-minute blitz on his way to 165 metres and 27 tackles in an interchange cameo that underpinned Queensland’s renewed spirit under coach Billy Slater.

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For Carrigan, it was a career-defining performance. This time last year, the Broncos ironman was left devastated after snapping his ACL in a club game against the Cowboys, forcing him to undergo an exhaustive nine-month rehabilitation.

A pivotal figure in his recovery was 28-game Origin stalwart and former Broncos skipper Boyd, who fought back from a serious achilles injury in 2015 to become Queensland and Australia’s No.1 fullback the following season.

Pat Carrigan was outstanding for the Maroons. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Pat Carrigan was outstanding for the Maroons. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“Darius has been great for me,” Carrigan said in the wake of his Origin heroics.

“He played more than 300 first-grade games and so many Origins, he is a pretty impressive player when you look at his achievements.

“When I did my knee, he sent me a text. He said he did his achilles and that a lot of people will write you off, but he set a goal to come back bigger and better and he managed to do that. That was my goal as well and that set up the next 12 months for me.

“I really wanted to make amends last year, but I did my knee and I felt like I owed some people. This (playing Origin) was always the goal and a lot of credit has to go to the Broncos for getting my knee right and getting me here.

“I’ve relished the chance to be in this Queensland side.”

Rookie coach Slater was blown away by Carrigan’s take-no-prisoners style the minute he charged onto Accor Stadium.

“His first carry was a momentum shift for us,” Slater said. “He made a real statement with his defence. He is a serious player. It was a great debut for Patty.”

Former Maroons star Darius Boyd played a pivotal role in Pat Carrigan’s recovery from an ACL injury last year. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Former Maroons star Darius Boyd played a pivotal role in Pat Carrigan’s recovery from an ACL injury last year. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Carrigan, who has played 54 games for the Broncos since his NRL debut in 2019, said he was inspired by the sight of Queensland’s legends in Camp Maroon.

“I was looking at a table at the airport and there was Billy (Slater), Greg Inglis, Cam Smith, Nate Myles, Johnathan Thurston, ‘Alfie Langer’ and Josh Hannay and I was like holy, I am pretty lucky to be sitting around these blokes,” he said.

“Billy spoke to us during the week about making our first involvement a positive one and building our game off that.

“I tried to have a good first carry and away I went. To pull on the jersey and sit around guys like Billy and ‘GI’ (Inglis) and play with blokes like Kalyn Ponga and Josh Papalii was a dream come true.

“It’s been a whirlwind, it will go down as one of my most special moments. I know Suncorp is a special place but to run out in front of 80,000 Blues fans with my Maroons teammates is something I will cherish forever.”

Maroons coach Billy Slater was delighted with Pat Carrigan’s impact in Origin I. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Maroons coach Billy Slater was delighted with Pat Carrigan’s impact in Origin I. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The making of a Maroons legend

-Travis Meyn, Peter Badel

Pat Carrigan announced himself as Queensland’s new Origin enforcer following a debut for the ages in last night’s Maroons boilover.

Carrigan changed the game for Queensland as the Maroons overcame a nervous start to clinch a 16-10 Origin I victory at Accor Stadium.

It was Queensland’s first win in Sydney since 2017 and has given the Maroons a magnificent opportunity to win back the shield with games in Perth (June 26) and Brisbane (July 13) to come.

And while it was a vintage Maroons effort in Billy Slater’s first game as coach, Carrigan was the man that kicked Queensland into gear and was superbly supported by debutant Reuben Cotter and bench prop Lindsay Collins.

Patrick Carrigan was immense on debut for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Patrick Carrigan was immense on debut for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The Brisbane Broncos forward made his presence known as soon as he entered the action from the interchange, smashing Blues centre Jack Wighton with a ringing tackle.

A debatable selection ahead of the experienced Jai Arrow, Carrigan crashed through the Blues’ defence with his first carry and made inroads every time he touched the ball.

At halftime he had the most runs (10) and metres (85) of any Queensland player and he only entered the game after starting prop Josh Papalii was given a rest at the 15-minute mark.

Carrigan, 24, didn’t come off the field for the remainder of the game, finishing with a team high 18 runs for 145m to go with 25 tackles.

“I’m wrecked, it’s everything you think of,” Carrigan said.

“We had to dig deep. I kept looking at Reuben Cotter playing 80 minutes in the middle and he kept turning up.

“It’s a dream come true. Billy was talking to us all week about our first involvement and that (Wighton tackle) was my first chance.

“On the back of little things, big things can come in Origin.”

Lindsay Collins dominated in the middle for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Lindsay Collins dominated in the middle for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Carrigan’s comeback from a knee reconstruction last year – which ended his 2021 season after eight games – has been nothing short of remarkable.

While most players take months, if not an entire season, to find their feet again, Carrigan has emerged a markedly better player.

Realising he needed to add dimensions to his game, Carrigan worked on his deficiencies while on the comeback trail from his injury. He wanted to become a better ballplayer and off-loader. He acknowledged his carries could be stronger and improved.

Carrigan was rewarded for his efforts on rugby league’s biggest stage Wednesday night as Queensland’s next generation of forwards emerged.

“Patrick Carrigan’s been the best player on the field,” Immortal Andrew Johns said in commentary.

Fellow bench prop Collins was sensational in his fourth Origin.

An understated player, Collins finished with 105m and 21 tackles. He took the hard carries others didn’t want to.

Then there was Cotter.

Reuben Cotter played the full 80 minutes on debut. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Reuben Cotter played the full 80 minutes on debut. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

With his flowing mullet and moustache, Cotter punched out 80 minutes on debut and racked up a game-high 49 tackles to go with 13 runs for 95m.

Starting prop Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (15 runs, 107m, 34 tackles) was also tireless as Queensland’s men in the middle upstaged the likes of Payne Haas, Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

It was the forwards’ dominance that allowed Maroons maestros Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster to slice and dice the Blues.

After being reduced to 15-men at one point, the Maroons ran out of gas in the dying stages and hung on for dear life to record a memorable Origin victory.

The series is now theirs to lose.

DCE says Slater was a gamechanger

Queensland skipper Cherry-Evans said the devastation of last year’s horror series has been emphatically swept away in the wake of the Maroons’ epic ambush of the Blues in Origin I.

Rookie coach Billy Slater has had an instant impact on the Maroons, transferring his competitive fire as a player to the squad of Queensland heroes who pulled off a brilliant 16-10 defeat of NSW at Accor Stadium.

Cherry-Evans presided over the disaster of the 2021 campaign, but he produced a captain’s knock in the 2022 series opener, with his solo try leading a super Queensland fightback to draw first blood.

Daly Cherry-Evans was happy to put the 2021 series behind him after a big win for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Daly Cherry-Evans was happy to put the 2021 series behind him after a big win for the Maroons. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“I am extremely proud,” he said.

“Origin is so hard to win, they are getting tougher and tougher and to get this win on NSW soil is special.

“There was just a better attitude to apply ourselves. It’s hard to compare series but it was good to put last year behind us and we had a group here who was prepared to do whatever it took tonight.

“We built a connection during the week and when we looked at each other out there, no-one second guessed themselves.”

Cherry-Evans lauded the coaching ability of Slater, who appears to have injected a harder edge to the Maroons.

Billy Slater gave the Maroons a sense of belief. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Billy Slater gave the Maroons a sense of belief. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“The message is to put the jersey before yourself and that’s what this group is about,” Cherry-Evans said.

“It’s hard not to respect and be in awe of Billy Slater when you look at his playing record. Then he has assistants like Cam Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Josh Hannay who have been brilliant.

“There’s a lot of reasons why Billy can be a good coach. He makes you feel like he cares about you and he wants you to do Queensland proud. He doesn’t care who gets the wraps. He just wants us to play for the jumper.

“We have improvement in us and we can get better defensively.”

The Maroons are set to be without winger Xavier Coates (ankle) for Game Two on June 26, with Cowboys duo Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Taulagi in the mix for a call-up for the return bout in Perth.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Origin heroics to fast-track Pat Carrigan’s Broncos captaincy bid