Carney's moment is finally here
Todd Carney trains at Etihad Stadium last night. Photo: Pat Scala
Todd Carney didn't want to be today's story. He wants to be tomorrow's – lauded for his feats on the field.
He is today's story, though, because just about everyone with a passing interest or more in tonight's first State of Origin will be watching Carney, the NSW five-eighth.
It will be a debut which has been destined to happen for so long, but which almost never did.
"People ask me the question, 'do you think you're ready for Origin?'" Carney said this week.
"You think you're ready for it the first time you play first grade, but it's not always the way.
"It's been a long time coming."
How long? "Ever since I've played first grade, or even as a kid, I don't think I've missed a game [of Origin]," Carney said.
"It's something that I've always wanted to do, and it's finally come."
He should be assured, though. The fact he is today's story is testament as much to his talent as it is to his flaws. Sure, he has been forced to leave two NRL clubs – Canberra and Sydney Roosters – due to his extravagant off-field endeavours, but he has risen as many times as he has fallen.
His latest success story has come at Cronulla, where he has been one of the form halves in the premiership this season, and an overwhelmingly popular selection for Origin I. He's done it with brilliance and resilience.
"I never lost belief at any time," Carney said. "Since I started first grade, from the football side to everything else, I've always had belief. It was more a perception that other people had. That's where the belief wasn't there; I know the people that are close to me, and the people that understand me, knew that I was comfortable in myself and I knew that I was going to do it.
"It was more just making it happen. The best way to make it happen is by playing good football."
There have been detractors. But Carney's corner has also been crowded. His mother, Leanne, who packed her son's bags for Melbourne in the hours after he was selected, has been a constant. She left for Melbourne yesterday, along with Carney's sisters, Krysten and Melinda.
The Cronulla skipper, Paul Gallen, who is also his NSW captain tonight, campaigned to have Carney in his club side, and now his state has been rewarded.
So tonight is not just his night. "It's for my first coach, my last coach, the players I've played with, and everyone that's been sticking by me," Carney said. "I'm just really happy with where I am."
So is he ready? "I wouldn't be in this position if I didn't think I was," he said.