STATE of Origin legends Matt Cooper and Scott Prince were on hand to give Orange a taste of the Origin experience on Friday, as part of the Road to Origin campaign.
The pair gave a small, but passionate crowd insight into the Origin and rugby league world, before signing autographs and taking photos with the fans.
The initiative brings former NSW and Queensland stars together to promote State of Origin and rugby league in rural communities across the two states, and had already visited Dubbo, Port Macquarie, Townsville, Mackay, Gympie and Sunshine Coast on its way to Orange.
“Its great to come out to places like this, they’re huge on their footy,” Cooper, who played 243 games for St George Illawarra, 13 Origins for NSW and seven games for Australia, said.
“They don’t get many current or former NRL players coming out here, so when we do come we always get great support. We’re getting out in different communities to promote rugby league, and State of Origin.
“It is such a huge part of the game these days, and getting the chance to interact with fans is great too.”
Cooper said the Orange community was particularly supportive, before giving his analysis on next week’s second State of Origin clash, in Sydney.
With NSW 1-nil up and primed to claim its first series victory in nine seasons Cooper, who played in the Blues’ last series win in 2005, was wary of being cocky.
“Its our turn, we’ve got a great chance at home and the odds are with us now,” he said.
“We need to aim up and just win the game. I’ll say NSW by four or six points but it will be a close, tough, hard fought game.”
Prince, a former Wests Tigers, Gold Coast Titans and Queensland halfback, agreed and said injuries could squash Queensland’s dream of nine consecutive series wins.
“Injuries are a concern for us (Queensland),” he said.
“But everyone who wears Maroon always lifts and does a job. It’ll be tough, but backs to the wall in Sydney, these situations bring out the best in Queenslanders.
“Maroons by four.”