Mate’s belief spurs Higgins to cusp of Origin history

Jasper Bruce |

Yasmin Clydsdale held back tears when Olivia Higgins was named for her State of Origin debut, and she has been credited by the Newcastle hooker for inspiring a NSW berth she herself thought would never come.

Now the two mates are 70 minutes away from sealing victory in the historic three-match Origin series in front of their Newcastle home crowd.  

A matter of weeks ago, Higgins had made peace with the fact she would never get to play Origin.

Higgins had been stuck behind Keeley Davis in the NSW hooker stakes since making her NRLW debut for the Sydney Roosters in 2021, and even after winning two premierships with Newcastle the 31-year-old felt time was no longer on her side.

“I thought that ship had sailed, I thought that I wouldn’t get to play Origin,” Higgins told AAP.

NSW coach Kylie Hilder picked Higgins in the 36-player extended squad that assembled for a seven-week camp in the lead-up to Origin I, played in Brisbane last month.

Higgins was flattered to have been named at all, but Clydsdale had some sage advice for her friend.

“She was like, ‘Don’t just be stoked to be selected in the squad, you’re good enough to play in the 17’,” Higgins said.

Olivia Higgins.
Olivia Higgins had virtually given up hope of ever representing NSW in State of Origin. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

“Then she actually pushed me a lot more than I probably would have done myself and gave me a bit of belief that I was good enough. 

“She’s someone that I look up to. I know I’m older than her, but what she brings to the game is incredible.”

When Hilder chose Higgins to start in the series opener, Clydsdale’s emotional reaction spoke volumes of the pair’s tight-knit bond.

Clydsdale has been in the team for every one of Higgins’ 25 NRLW appearances, first at the Roosters and then in two premiership seasons at the Knights.

Yasmin Clydsdale.
Yasmin Clydsdale was delighted when her friend and Knights teammate Olivia Higgins was chosen. (Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’ve seen her grow so much,” Clydsdale told AAP.

“She’s one of my best friends, so seeing her excel in this space is something I always knew she was capable of. I just don’t think she ever thought she was (good enough) herself.

“To see her play her first Origin, I actually almost cried, but I won’t tell her that.”

But just as Clydsdale wouldn’t allow Higgins to rest on her laurels after being named in the initial Origin squad, the friends know there’s more work to be done this week.

After running out 22-12 winners in the series opener, the Sky Blues can snatch the Origin shield back from Queensland with victory at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday night.

A sold-out crowd, the biggest in women’s Origin history, has already been confirmed.

In the lead-up to Origin II, Newcastle native Higgins has given herself the chance to take a breath and reflect on a whirlwind start to 2024.

“I had a little moment to myself (after Origin I) and I did have a little bit of a cry because I thought, this is a big deal,” she said.

“To think I get to play again in front of Newy (Newcastle), the first time Newy’s hosted an Origin for the women, it’s incredible.”