How Mum got Munster back on track
CAMERON Munster had to change - for better or worse.
If being scolded by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga and Melbourne Storm mastermind Craig Bellamy after a rocky off-season didn't get the point across then a third mentor certainly did.
It was direct. It was pointed. It was familiar.
Let me make one thing clear. Revered rugby league icons 'Big Mal' and 'Bellyache' are not shrinking violets.
But neither is Munster's mother, Deborah.
Reports of Munster being disciplined for a boozy bust-up with Kangaroos - and Maroons - teammate Ben Hunt prompted Mrs Munster to reach for the telephone.
"She obviously was hearing stuff that I was making poor choices," Munster told the Sunday Herald Sun.
"She said to me 'look you're living your childhood dream and you don't want to throw that all way'."
Her words resonated with the Rockhampton junior, set to make his second State of Origin appearance for Queensland on Wednesday night at the MCG.
"A lot of people have got talent and a lot of people throw it away … I don't want to have second thoughts in my head about what I could have been, should have been," Munster said.
It all happened so quickly for Munster that getting caught up in it was inevitable.
The "its" being rugby league and success.
At 22-years-old Munster had a 73 per cent NRL winning strike rate (48-16) in three seasons.
He started and starred at fullback, stepping in for an injured Billy Slater, and then moved to five-eighth, where he turned into one of the game's most exciting and damaging playmakers.
The rapid rise reached a crescendo last year, with Munster putting in one of the great Origin debuts, winning a premiership and World Cup.
He toasted the wins - with gusto - and ultimately lost control.
The controversial and well-documented World Cup blue was the catalyst for change.
"I'm pretty lucky for what job I've got to be honest," Munster said.
"I could be digging holes and doing some tough yakka, sometimes I forgot that, at the moment, I'm not forgetting."
A strong work ethic and balance - on and off the field - has helped Munster reach new heights. He leads Melbourne in try assists, line break assists and one-on-one tackles.
It starts on the training track.
There were times last year Munster would turn up and go through the motions. Not anymore.
"I'd just go to training and get the job done and then head out," Munster said.
"This year, I'm working on my game a lot more after training and working on my combinations."
Munster grew up wanting to play rugby league. He was not alone in central Queensland.
Living in Melbourne wasn't part of that dream - not yet, anyway.
But the chance to learn from the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk and super coach Bellamy made the move an easy decision to make.
"It wasn't really a thing for me to play for the Storm," Munster said. "It was really just to be around the best three players the world's ever seen in this era.
"I've learned a lot from them and I'm very grateful for what they've done for me."
The Origin door flung open for Munster last year, called up for the decider as the replacement for injured Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston.
He rose to the occasion, terrorising the Blues with darting runs and deft hands in close to set up a famous 22-6 victory.
That was then, Munster is focused solely on the now and helping the Maroons on Wednesday night.
"I don't really focus too much on (the past), I just love playing footy," Munster said.
"People can say whatever they want about me or the team … I just go out there and try and play football."