8 April 2012, photo by STUART WALMSLEY. NRL round six. Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors at Canberra Stadium. Canberra's Josh McCrone. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Canberra Raiders star Josh McCrone was putting in some hard yakka on the family farm when he learned of his shock Country call-up yesterday.
The playmaker had returned to Temora for some fresh air and peace and quiet, blissfully unaware that he was about to be handed his breakthrough representative jersey.
McCrone thought he was the victim of a prank when Country and Raiders media manager Ben Pollack rang to tell him that Danny Buderus was out, and he was in.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: Chris Houston (C) and other players arrive at the NSWRL Country Origin team photo session at Moore Park on April 16, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) Photo: Matt King
''I was lucky to get the phone call actually, I was at home putting out salt blocks on the farm,'' McCrone said before making the dash down the Hume Highway.
''I just got home from that because Mum had to go get a haircut, otherwise I wouldn't have come back to the house and heard the phone.
''When I first saw the number, I thought 'what have I done here? Have I forgotten to go to a promo or something?'
''I've had a fair few phone calls, and Mum's pretty excited and calling everyone.''
Ironically, McCrone's selection allows his brother-in-law, Melbourne Storm utility Ryan Hinchcliffe, to move into the starting line-up at hooker.
Hinchcliffe is also a Temora product, and McCrone married his sister Courtney during the off-season.
''Yeah, everyone's playing happy families, aren't they?,'' McCrone laughed.
McCrone's inclusion increases Canberra's Country representation to three after winger Blake Ferguson and prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs were named in the side on Sunday.
McCrone was chosen for his utility value, and is likely to give Hinchcliffe a breather late in each half where he can use his speed to expose some tired forwards.
The five-eighth admitted he came close to assuming the Raiders' hooker role when the club suffered a dummy half injury crisis last year.
''Tonguey [retired skipper Alan Tongue] probably played a couple of games he shouldn't have, and if he didn't get through the 80 minutes I was next cab off the rank to go to hooker,'' McCrone said.
''I think the last time I played there was about five years ago in the Premier League.''
The nature of McCrone's call-up reflects why Country is so desperate to ensure Sunday's clash with City at Mudgee isn't the concept's last.
McCrone used Tongue as a perfect example of how much the boys from the country covet the maroon and yellow jumper.
''I think it's a silly idea to can it,'' McCrone said. ''It's an opportunity for a rep jumper and a fair few guys miss out [otherwise] - Tonguey only ever got one go in a rep jumper, and that was a Country jumper.
''I'm pretty excited and I think it's a great opportunity for us Country boys to represent where we come from.''
McCrone's views were supported by Learoyd-Lahrs, who declared the game crucial to give something back to the grassroots of the game.
''It's basically recognition for the guys, like the city boys have had growing up in those big competitions and probably stronger clubs,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said. ''A lot us come from clubs that were struggling financially, and this is the system that kept them afloat.
''The other thing is guys like Joshy [McCrone] get to play alongside other class players and have that stepping stone to Origin.
''In my first Country camp I learned things about preparation and patience in games, but everything he learns is going to benefit us at club level for sure.''
NSW City v NSW Country at Mudgee, 3pm. TV Time: Delayed on WIN at 4pm.