Nielsen impresses at Origin
DANE Nielsen's first State of Origin match is not likely to be his last.
Nielsen didn't put a foot wrong in Queensland's 16-12 defeat of NSW in the opening match of the series at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night, playing a big role in defence.
The Storm centre was chosen after injuries to star players Justin Hodges and Greg Inglis, who would be likely to return for the Maroons when fit.
But Nielsen quickly showed he deserved his place in the team, snuffing out NSW's first attacking move of the match when he tackled flying winger Michael Jennings into touch.
That helped Queensland to keep NSW scoreless in the first half, but the Blues fought back in the second with two tries for a two-point lead with 10 minutes to go, before Queensland winger Billy Slater scored the match-winner.
Although he didn't see a lot of the ball, he became more involved later in the match, coming in to take some hit-ups.
His father Steve, who was among a big contingent of family and friends in the crowd, said Nielsen later told him of how quickly the match seemed to go.
“He said it was all over in no time,” Steve said.
“He got a bit of a fright when the Blues got in front, he was worried it would be his first game and him not being on a winning team.”
Nielsen told his father he suffered a calf injury in the first half, but managed to run it out and get back into the game.
“We'll just have to wait and see on injuries,” Steve said on his son's chances of being picked for Origin II at Sydney on June 15.
“The Blues will probably go with the same team, and in the past Queensland selectors have been loyal to their sides.
“He'll just have to get back to club football now and go again.
“I was a little bit surprised, he didn't seem to show any nerves for such a big occasion.”
A group of more than 30 of Nielsen's family and friends were in the sell-out crowd of 52,000 crowd, with many more watching on TV, and about 14 attended an after-match function with the players.
“Dane was rapt with the support he received from Mackay people,” Steve said.
The Mackay district also had good representation in the curtain-raiser matches, with four playing in a women's game and two from Moranbah in an under 16 clash.