Getting picked for Queensland is tough.
Getting picked for Queensland while playing for the underachieving Warriors?
It’s enough to test even the most loyal Maroons’ selector – just ask Jacob Lillyman.
Warriors forward Lillyman makes a welcome return for Queensland for next Wednesday’s State of Origin game two in Brisbane.
But not after arguably the most-testing period of his NRL career.
Lillyman knows he will be targeted by a monster NSW pack when he comes off the bench.
Thankfully, he is used to copping some huge hits at the Warriors – and that’s just off the field.
Lillyman, 32, admitted he had earned a Queensland recall the hard way after enduring a tough season start with the much-maligned Warriors.
“When your team isn’t doing too well, it doesn’t help your cause too much,” Lillyman said.
“We have been copping it from pillar to post over there, to be honest.
“It’s been a pretty tough period.”
With the recruitment of Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, the Warriors went into the season as third favourites behind defending premiers North Queensland and grand finalists Brisbane.
However, they were blasted after their lacklustre opening-round loss to the lowly Wests Tigers.
The Warriors then lost their 11th straight game stretching back from 2015 when they succumbed 21-14 at home to Melbourne in round three.
Somehow, it managed to get worse.
Lillyman admits the lowlight came when they were thrashed 42-0 in round eight in Melbourne.
“We were very inconsistent. It all came to a head after that Melbourne game when we got a touch up,” he said.
“That’s the biggest disappointment for us – we are heavily underachieving.”
As a result, Lillyman was the only incumbent to be overlooked for Queensland’s 6-4 series-opening win.
Lillyman still embraced a chance to get thrashed at Maroons training as 18th man ahead of game one.
It made a nice break from the Warriors.
“Obviously, it was disappointing being left out for the opener after playing all three games last year,” Lillyman said.
“But it was good to be back around the Queensland guys again.
“We have been doing it a bit tough over at the Warriors so it was good to come over and freshen up.”
Then something strange happened when he returned to the Warriors after the Origin I camp.
Their mindset had changed. They were having fun again.
And in keeping with the Warriors’ sometimes infuriating ways, Lillyman had no idea what forced the dramatic change.
“When I came back from game one camp, they were a totally different team,” Lillyman said.
“Whatever the coaching staff did while I was away worked.
“The boys were happy. That’s how we have been playing the last couple of weeks.”
The Warriors (9th; 6-7 record) have won three of their past five matches.
“I feel we have come out the other side,” Lillyman said.