So close he could touch it
By GREG WHITE
ON the night of June 20, 1994, as more than 40,000 fans awaited kickoff in the State of Origin decider at Lang Park, worried Blues officials headed into the bowels of the grandstand.
They were looking for the New South Wales Residents dressing room and the five-eighth who'd just led the slaughter of Queensland Residents.
As coach Phil Gould conferred with Residents boss Frank Fish they began pointing toward their target, lighting his first post-match cigarette.
"The bloke in the blue jumper came up and said they'd lost a player in the warm up and wanted me to be a reserve," the player remembered.
"I thought he was pulling my leg but Fishy came over and told me it was no joke.
"So I stubbed out the ciggy and started putting the boots back on."
And that's how Group 2 icon Brett Davis became the most unlikely bench player in Origin history.
While most of the game is a blur, 'Uncle' Brett still recalls the almighty roar as the players entered the arena.
"They told me before the game there was little chance I'd be used.
"My job was to be available for any emergency so I never got to take the field but the experience was fantastic and will stay with me forever."
NSW won the game 27-12 to wrap up the series and while the circumstances of his selection mean he isn't included on the list of 'official' Origin players, Davis has almost all the souvenirs needed to remind everyone of the greatest moment of a career mere mortals only dream of.
"They wouldn't let me keep a blue jumper," he said regretfully.
"But I kept the socks, shorts and tracksuit and Tim Brasher gave me his Origin shirt.
"Then, a few days later a cheque turned up with the full playing payment."
It's 12 years since Davis stepped out of the Origin spotlight but most observers believe the enjoyment he derives from the game is greater now than at any period of his career.
"I really love what I do," the Orara Valley halfback with more retirements and comebacks than anyone, admits.
"While the Axemen are going so well, how could it be any other way?"