Maroons dynamo Rapana credits Thurston legacy for form

Joel Gould |

Tazmin Rapana (right) says watching and learning from Johnathan Thurston made her a better player.
Tazmin Rapana (right) says watching and learning from Johnathan Thurston made her a better player.

Queensland second-rower Tazmin Rapana grew up playing in the halves and has credited Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston for inspiring her extraordinary game sense.

Rapana, formerly known as Tazmin Gray, has Canberra great Jordan Rapana as a brother and will be a key figure in Thursday night’s State of Origin series opener against NSW at Suncorp Stadium.

The 28-year-old was the player of the series in the Maroons’ triumph last year where her physicality and rugby league IQ came up trumps.

 She has a league brain, like her idol.

“If I was to look at who I idolised growing up it would be Johnathan Thurston,” Rapana told AAP.

“I never watched players in the forwards. I just loved how Johnathan played the game and how slow-motion he made the game look. 

“I always felt like I was running around with my head cut off, so to be able to see JT slow the game down made me realise it was all about tempo.

“The game was only as fast as he made it, and that was so cool to watch.”

It is a bit different now for Rapana, who has little time to think as a blockbusting forward.

But she says Thurston’s legacy still resonates. It is an ethos she intends to showcase against the Blues.

“As I have gotten older, I have learned how tempo and speed come into play no matter what position you play,” she said.

“In my old age, I have learned how to control my body a bit more and get  more out of it.

“Put a footy in my hand and I will run and pass the ball all day but at the end of the day it comes down to who you are playing with. 

“I am just glad to be here in Origin camp and happy to go another series for Queensland.”

Rapana has lived and breathed football since she could walk and run.

“I am from a family of 10 – six boys and four girls.I am lucky to have grown up with my brothers on the football field,” she said.

“Jordan Rapana is my brother so I think that speaks volumes of where I sit in the pecking order.

“I have watched my brothers play and listened to how they speak about the game and how they internalise everything. 

“I think that got passed down to me. I love football and have lived and breathed it every day since I was a kid.”