It wasn’t that long ago that Josh Mansour and Panthers teammate Matt Moylan were a bunch of unknowns, playing park footy with the Windsor Wolves in front of virtually no one.
On Wednesday night, the Penrith pair will pull on the famous sky blue jumper for the very first time, and be greeted by 80,000 screaming fans in rugby league’s greatest arena.
26-year-old Mansour says it’s been a special journey.
“I’ve shared a long journey with Matty… we started out at the Windsor Wolves and pretty much made our NRL debuts together, and now we are here,” he said in disbelief.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride and I’m very excited to be a part of it all with him.”
Mansour’s name had been tossed around in mock Origin squads for years but he has always remained just out of calculations.
After enduring an uphill battle with injury in 2015, Mansour came out on top and, last Sunday night, heard the words he’d been dreaming of for so long – “Sauce, you’ve made Origin”.
Upon hearing those four words from Penrith’s football manager on his way home from Pepper Stadium, the powerhouse winger couldn’t wait to tell his mum and of course his fiancé, Daniella.
“It was a bit of a mood changer, that’s for sure,” Mansour admitted.
“Obviously I was disappointed with the loss against the Titans on the bell – that really hurt – but when I got that call on the way home, that brought my mood back up.”
Mansour will turn 26 during the Origin series and admits he’s pumped for what’s ahead.
“It’s so surreal… it’s been a massive achievement for myself and I’m definitely very excited,” he said.
After not missing a single Origin series on television as a kid, the soon-to-be Blues debutant expressed his excitement at finally being able to experience the legend that is State of Origin footy for himself.
“It’s the pinnacle of rugby league and I think the physicality of the game really excites me,” he said.
“I think that’s one of my strengths and I can’t wait to just run out there and get amongst it.”
Mansour has previously represented both Australia and Lebanon.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.