They reckon big boys don’t cry, but the biggest Blue of them all now has shed a few in his time. And not afraid to admit it too.
“I called my dad straight away … I need to get myself together a bit,” NSW’s newly appointed skipper Boyd Cordner quivered, fighting back tears. “He’s been my No.1 supporter all my life. He was over the moon and is always proud of me no matter what I do. I think he was happier than I am.”
Which is saying something. The shy kid from Taree on the mid-NSW north coast was christened on Monday night as the man to lead his state – potentially for the next decade – after Paul Gallen’s representative retirement.
His father Chris has seen the struggles. Cordner lost his mother Lanai to cancer when he was only four, forcing his dad to raise him and his older brother Dane. There was the move to the city as a shy 16-year-old and the battle of city life. And the setbacks since? There’s been a few of them.
But when Laurie Daley wanted someone to lead primarily with actions, he found the fella with the unmistakably dimpled chin and asked him to help wrest State of Origin supremacy back south of the border.
“It means the world,” Cordner said. “As a kid all you ever wanted to do was to play State of Origin and play for NSW, but I haven’t even dreamed of being captain.
“It wasn’t until only recently when it started to get closer it hit home I might be selected as captain. Standing here now it’s a massive honour.
“I can’t really describe how I felt at the time [when I found out]. It’s an unbelievable honour for me personally and one of the highest honours you can get captaining your state.”
Not that he heard the news when Daley wanted him to hear it.
Driving home a few teammates from the Roosters’ narrow win over the Bulldogs on Sunday night, Cordner saw the coach’s name flash up on his phone. He let it go through to the keeper given it might not have been the right time to take it.
His teammates ditched a few minutes later it was then Cordner answered Daley’s call.
“I think it was a bit of relief because of all the talk after ‘Gal’ stepped down,” Cordner said. “There was a lot of talk about who was going to be the next captain.
“As it got closer my name started to get brought up a bit more and to find out off Laurie was an unbelievable feeling – a lot of joy, maybe a few tears … it’s something I’m very proud of. To look back now and see where I’ve come from and some of the setbacks to be here now as NSW captain is a pretty surreal feeling.”
The 24-year-old was elevated to co-captaincy at the Roosters this season and was identified as the most suitable man for the job from a field which included Aaron Woods, Wade Graham and Josh Jackson.
And not many can challenge his convictions.
As long ago as 2013 a young Cordner assertively told his coach Trent Robinson – mid-way through a premiership year no less – he wanted to represent his hometown of Taree in a City-Country fixture when his banged up body was best served spending a week in cotton wool according to his club.
What – if anything – Cordner pulls from the Gallen art of captaincy is questionable.
But the brash, straight-shooting Gallen is the antithesis of what Daley has found in Cordner for generational change for the Blues. And it’s hard to see Cordner being loathed as much as Gallen north of the Tweed.
“The things I’ve learned from past leaders I’ve had, especially Gal, he’s someone I’ve looked up to and the way he went about his business, he’s tough, he’s resilient and he led by his actions and he’s been an inspiration for this team for a while now,” Cordner said.
“It will be a hostile crowd [at Suncorp Stadium] and that’s what State of Origin is all about. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be copping a fair bit and that’s part and parcel of it.”
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