Origin returns Maroons’ Flegler to natural environment

Murray Wenzel |

Tom Flegler is aware he’s among the last of a dying breed.

There will be a rare concentration of his type on the Adelaide Oval next Wednesday though, the Queensland prop relieved there’s still a place for rough and tumble rugby league in State of Origin.

“It’s slowly fading out of the NRL,” the Brisbane middle forward told AAP of the physical football Billy Slater wants from him against NSW in the series opener.

“Everyone’s got their own opinion on it. 

“I disagree with some things (that have been introduced to the game), but I don’t hate it; that’s the way it’s going and player safety is massive.

“There are still a few players that like to play like that and it’s nice to know there is still an arena for that type of footy.”

Toeing the line between aggression and suspension was an early issue for Flegler in an 85-game NRL career that’s been seven games short-changed due to suspensions.

It’s no surprise that he recalls the 2009 Suncorp Stadium stoush triggered by Steve Price and Brett White as his most vivid Origin memory.

But the 23-year-old from a banana-farming family in Tully has improved in that department and, much like his NSW opposite Tevita Pangai, found a happy medium to force his way back into the Origin fray after a lone game in 2021.

“Unfortunately Felise has had a few bad runs, haven’t we all,” he said in a nod to suspended Maroons veteran Felise Kaufusi.

“The refs are cracking down on things in the modern day; whether they get it right or not is a different story but it really doesn’t matter.

“It’s the result at the end of the day that does. It’s a fine line what you can and can’t get away with.”

Flegler and Lindsay Collins have enjoyed being handed the task of trying to fill the boots of retired, 23-game Origin mainstay Josh Papalii.

“For sure (we can step up); he’s left that jersey in a good spot and that’s what you want to do … wear it with pride and leave it in a good spot,” Collins said.

“It’s up to us now to take over and continue that legacy.”

Collins and Flegler have never played together but the pair have clicked in their Gold Coast camp this week.

“He’s 100 miles an hour,” Collins said of Flegler.

“It’s good; you feed off that energy, especially when it’s a ding-dong (battle).

“You ask him to do something, he does it.”

Flegler has promised “fireworks” and said “anything could happen” in his duel with Pangai, who has a reputation for being combustible.

Collins said the modern day firebrands had worked hard to ensure moments like the Price and White flare-up in Brisbane 14 years ago remain a thing of the past.

“It is hard, something you have to practise,” Collins said of keeping emotions in check in the heat of Origin battle.

“Controlling it and putting it in the right areas … you’re going to have your little ‘get back to zero’ moments.

“It’s a process you go through, to find your centre and get on with your job.”