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Dunamis Lui: 'It's all surreal to be honest'

There was a time Queensland Maroons squad member Dunamis Lui thought he may never play rugby league. 

As a 12-year-old, Lui, who has been named by coach Wayne Bennett to line up against the New South Wales Blues in State of Origin Game II on Wednesday, longed to play the sport all of his friends were, but his parents said 'no'. 

"I was pretty close to not even playing rugby league at all... I was always keen to play, especially with all of my friends playing... I just remember my parents saying 'no' because they couldn't afford it," Lui said. 

"Luckily enough, I had two close mates when I was younger, their parents actually looked after me and paid for my fees and got me going. I owe a lot of thanks to them."

Those two friends were Wavell Heights State School classmates Jay Spletter and Mitch Everson; Lui said their fathers Peter and Mark made sure he could play at Brothers at Stafford and he would forever be thankful. 

"I remember Jay asking me to play and I was saying 'no' because my parents wouldn't let me... but they paid for my fees, picked me up for training, looked after me... it all started from there," Lui said. 

"I want them to know I still remember what they did."

Lui said Josh McGuire's parents were "like my second parents really" and also  made sure he continued to play the game he loved. 

Dunamis Lui playing at Norths. Photo: QRL
Dunamis Lui playing at Norths. Photo: QRL

"They were also picking me up for games, picking me up for trainings.... I would even sleep at their house nights before games... they play a big part in my early days," Lui said. 

"And my coach at Wavell State High School, Dave Porter... he played a real big part in me starting off as well. When I was 14 he introduced me to my manager.

"Because I was a pretty big boy, he bought me sports shoes. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday before school I'd get there at around 6am and we'd do the cross country. He'd force me to do it. We started with the shorter run first, the three-kilometre, and gradually worked up to the five-kilometre one. I don't think I ever ran any of those non-stop, but yeah, he played a really big part in me starting out and he's always been there since."

The 30-year-old, who debuted in the NRL for the Brisbane Broncos in 2010 and has since played 158 games - 32 for the Broncos, 38 for Manly, 10 for St George and 78 for Canberra, said playing Origin would be a "dream come true". 

The soon-to-be father-of-three said getting the call up to the Maroons squad was unbelievable and his parents were "very proud". 

"Josh Papalii told me I was in the squad... Paps broke the news... him and his wife actually FaceTimed us," Lui said.

"He told me to 'pack your bags, we're going into camp'. I told him to 'shut up'... went to hang up... yeah, I didn't really believe him at first because I hadn't heard anything. 

"Every time I did media, they would always mention it, but I didn't hear anything from anyone specifically at camp, so I didn't know whether to believe him or not. 

"Any then, when I got the phone call two days later, that's when it all really hit me. I rang my missus straight away. 

"When I came into camp, walking in and seeing everyone, I thought 'far out'. You question yourself... 'should I really be here?' You know, after all of these years. But we've got a good group here. All good blokes. Everyone makes everyone feel welcome."

Lui at training. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL
Lui at training. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL

Lui said he got "pretty emotional" when Bennett told him he would likely debut Wednesday.

"I was really shocked (when Wayne told me). I was walking in the sheds, having a joke and laughing, having a giggle with the boys, and Wayne pulled me aside and told me. It full rattled me. I went from laughing and mucking around to just sitting there. Just staring. Didn't really know what to think," Lui said. 

"I gave my family a call when Wayne told me I'd be making my debut... I was pretty emotional... I couldn't hold back the tears.

"As soon as I heard my mum crying, I couldn't hold it back. My old man as well, you could hear it in his voice. I had my older brother too and my sister-in-law there as well. It was a bit of a special moment. 

"Obviously I told my wife as well. It's been a pretty emotional week for me. I'm just trying to lay low and not think too much about it. 

"It's always been a dream of mine and I didn't think it would ever, ever happen, so I'm just happy."

Lui said the reality of being in the Maroons camp and being coached by legends of the game in Bennett, Mal Meninga and Neil Henry was better than he ever imagined it would be and he could not wait to rip in donning maroon. 

"It's just buzzing. You sit back and have a look around and see all of the faces that are here. They're pretty much greats in this game, especially for Queensland... Wayne, Mal, Alfie, even Neil as well. It's pretty buzzing when you sit here and look around, especially for a new bloke," Lui said. 

"It's all surreal to be honest."

Lui said seeing all of the names on the captain's run jersey, and realising he would also be one of those names in the future, was a cool moment. 

Lui wearing the captain's run jersey. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL
Lui wearing the captain's run jersey. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL

"We were sitting there in our meeting at captain's run last week.... I was looking at the jersey in front of me, reading all of the names and their numbers... I remember sitting there thinking 'I'm going to have a Queensland number soon'," Lui said.  

"It's just so surreal that all of this is happening. But I think for me, because it has taken me so long to get here, I never thought this would happen, I never thought I would actually be in the 27-man squad this year, I'm just trying to soak it all in. 

"But at the same time we've got a job to do on Wednesday. Got to forget all of that and focus on playing good footy. 

"I won't change anything. I just want to play the way that I've been playing at club level with a bit more intensity. Rip in, that's it."

Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans is confident he will do just that. 

"I've seen plenty of games this year where Dunamis has led front the front," Cherry-Evans said. 

DCE: Lui won't live in Papalii's shadow