Old mates share new Origin rivalry - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Old mates share new Origin rivalry

By Steve Jancetic 09/07/2009 08:16:58 PM Comments (0)

Mate against mate will take on a whole new meaning when former Brisbane scholarship holders and now Origin rivals Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Neville Costigan go head to head.

Brought together as 13-year-olds under the stewardship of then-Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, Learoyd-Lahrs and Costigan have been virtually inseparable ever since.

They followed each other from the Broncos to Canberra, and after going their separate ways, will again come together at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night when Learoyd-Lahrs makes his NSW debut against a Queensland side featuring the name Costigan for the first time since game two of the 2007 series.

"We've been great mates for a long time. We stay in contact pretty regularly and my young fella even calls him uncle Nev," Learoyd-Lahrs said.

"I ran into him (Tuesday) morning at the airport and he was on his way up to join the Maroons. To get the opportunity to play against Nev is unreal.

"He's just one of those blokes. You meet someone with common interests and you know what you get with Nev."

While it doesn't get better than turning out in an Origin game in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium, Learoyd-Lahrs says it wasn't so long ago when their playing careers were going backwards.

"This time last year we were both playing for (Canberra's feeder team) Souths Logan in Queensland Cup and things weren't going great for either of us," Learoyd-Lahrs recalled.

"He has turned it around. Going to a new club has been a breath of fresh air I suppose ... and I'd like to think I'm starting to make some improvements in my game too."

Costigan hasn't looked back since reuniting with Bennett at St George Illawarra this year.

Good things have also come to Learoyd-Lahrs, a player who always seemed destined for higher honours given his unique blend of skill and power.

Injuries have curtailed much of his progress. The 23-year-old managed just 41 games in his first five years of top-grade football, but in 2009 he has missed only two of Canberra's 15 games and he feels he's finally ready to take that next step.

That step could quite easily have been into a Queensland jumper after Maroons officials tried to pull a swifty in line with their heist of NSW-raised Test star Greg Inglis when they named Learoyd-Lahrs in an Emerging Maroons squad during his time with the Broncos.

"There was a little bit of confusion as to who I was eligible for. But I've always been a New South Welshman," he said.

"Our school (Farrer Agricultural) didn't have a lot of school football to play so they wanted to play in the local competition in Tamworth and to do so you had to be registered under a group four side and we had a joint registration with Werris Creek Magpies - that's why I'm eligible for NSW.

"I've always barracked for the Blues. I was born here and basically played all my junior football in NSW."

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