Christian Welch will take his place in the middle in the Origin decider.
Christian Welch will take his place in the middle in the Origin decider. Bradley Kanaris

Proud Blue does bit for Maroons

WHEN a footballer is prepared to permit a medico to use a staple gun on his head to seal a wound so he can carry on playing, his passion for the game - and the jersey - can never be questioned.

But former New South Wales centre Mick DeVere had a fleeting moment of remorse about the level of his involvement in rugby league this past week when Storm bolter Christian Welch was named to bolster the Queensland forwards for tonight's State of Origin decider in Sydney.

Not that DeVere wasn't happy for Welch - he was in fact delighted for the Maroons debutant and Carina RLC junior. His qualm was that he had indirectly assisted in the development of an Origin enemy.

A three-time Broncos premiership winner in his 161-game, eight-season NRL career, DeVere made five Origin appearances for NSW, winning two of the three series in which he played.

And in one of Origin's more unforgettable moments, he bled profusely from a head wound until the staples stemmed the flow.

He played his final game for the Blues in 2004 and spent the next two seasons with Huddersfield, in England.

On his return to Brisbane in November of 2006, DeVere joined the Broncos Game Development Department and was appointed to Carina Leagues Club as their football and community development manager.

There he oversaw the evolution of the club's burgeoning group of youngsters - which today boasts 40 teams from under six to under 18, as well as a women's team and three senior men's teams - and one of those juniors was Christian Welch.

JUNE 11, 2003 : Michael De Vere during Game One of State of Origin RL match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane 11/06/03. Pic Mark Evans.Rugby League A/CT
Michael De Vere on the charge for NSW in Origin I in 2003. EVANS MARK

"What I am now doing, indirectly, is helping in the development of kids who could one day be out on the field doing their best to beat the Blues," was DeVere's wry explanation.

"Not that I really mind, because I love rugby league and I'm proud to help grow the game that has been so good to me. I want to assist kids in being the best they can be, and hopefully one day play Origin footy, even if it is for Queensland.

"But I'm a loyal person, and a passionate Blue, so there is a contradiction of sorts in the role I have in the development of the game. Whether they play for Queensland or NSW doesn't really matter in the general scheme of things, just as long as the mighty Blues win the series."

There are others apart from Welch who DeVere has helped develop during the 13 years he has been in his Broncos-related role, albeit in some cases in just a small way.

Along with other members of the Broncos Game Development Department team, he regularly visits regional areas to assist with coaching clinics at junior clubs and schools.

Kalyn Ponga is among those who attended the Broncos development camps during his junior days.
Kalyn Ponga is among those who attended the Broncos development camps during his junior days.

"Someone reminded me just recently that a young Kalyn Ponga had attended a clinic we held in Mackay a few years ago," he said.

"I'm sure that if we wanted to dig deeper and canvassed the current Queensland team, most of them would have attended a Broncos clinic at some time as a junior.

"And while I'm happy, and proud, about the job we do and the results we achieve, sometimes I feel a little guilty - especially at this time of the year."

A hugely proud Broncos life member, the Caringbah-born DeVere wrote to Wayne Bennett as an 18-year-old in 1994 asking for a chance at the club.

He said he wanted to play for the best club, and under the best coach.

Despite Brisbane's rough start to season 2019, DeVere believes they can rise again and says the work of the Broncos Game Development Department will help bring that about.

"Our motto is 'growing the game', and the philosophy is 'plant the seeds, cultivate the crop and pick the fruit'," he said.

"And if we can land a few future Blues in the process, I will be even more satisfied."