Every man, woman and child has their opinion on whom will make the New South Wales State of Origin team.
Its that time of the year with the representative season beginning this Friday night with the annual Anzac Test match taking centre stage from a sold out Skilled Park on the Gold Coast.
While Darren Lockyer and his Kangaroos prepare for battle against Benji Marshall’s New Zealand for world supremacy in Queensland, another match will be taking place 1394 kilometres away on the New South Wales/Victorian border in Albury.
It surely doesn’t have the blockbuster glitz of Australia versus New Zealand, but the City versus Country Origin match in cold old Albury holds just as much meaning for Chris Houston.
A man who missed the entire 2010 season after being served with a notice to attend court on charges of supplying ecstasy and cocaine. Forget about his career for a moment. His life was in tatters.
Houston played sixteen games in his debut season for the St George/Illawarra Dragons in 2007 before linking with the Newcastle Knights. In 2008 and 2009, he captained the Knights in a handful of games showing the long term potential he had.
At 6 foot 4 and 107 kilograms, he was touted as a New South Wales representative and almost realised his dream when selected as 18th man for game three of the 2009 Origin series.
Then it all came crashing down as Houston and Knights colleague Danny Wicks were arrested for allegedly supplying illegal drugs. Houston was eventually found not guilty, but by then, he was the forgotten man of rugby league.
Houston admits he owes the Knights a debt of gratitude and is determined to do so on and off the field. Through all the turbulence, the Newcastle Knights supported him.
Now he is back and ready for a sky blue jumper. The one he should already have.
“I was never going to put another club in front of the Knights because they’ve been so good for me,” he said.
“I owe the club a lot for the faith they have shown in me. I was only out of the game for nine months, but I suppose you still question yourself most days about whether I can come back and play like I had before all this happened. I’m going to give myself every chance.”
The talented Moruya backrower is now on the cusp of a dream and an impressive showing against City will all but cement his spot for Origin One on the 25th of May.
“You miss everything about it (playing). Winning, obviously, but it’s more the little things like waking up sore after a game and the contact, or just running in to congratulate a team-mate after he’s scored a try. It’s not actually playing the game – it’s the mateship around it.”
Houston doesn’t just look like an Origin player. He sounds like one.