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The real Choc, Kearns incident and my only Origin

With the hype around 1997 and his many heroics on the nib Newcastle Knights’ right edge, Darren Albert’s brief representative career is often overlooked.

“It’s often asked whether I played origin, and I did actually play one,” Albert told the Our Town Our Team Podcast.

The match in question was the opening game of the 1999 series, where the Blues were out to reclaim the shield.

It went down as one of the closest series on record, with just three points separating the two teams across the entire series.

Ironically, it was Albert’s Knights teammate Adam McDougall whose absence allowed him to make his one and only appearance in a blue jersey.

“To be honest I think Doogy was the incumbent, he was injured the first game and got me a start,” Albert said.

“I obviously didn’t show enough or play well enough to be selected again with him coming back into the squad.

“It happens, he had an amazing representative career, so he deserved to be there.”

Albert walked away from the 10-day camp with fond memories, with coach Wayne Pearce famously taking the team away from the city for their preparation and team bonding sessions.

“He (Pearce) changed the way the State of Origin week went,” he said.

“Instead of staying in the city and everyone going out for a bonding session, he took us out to the middle of nowhere up in the Blue Mountains.

“We were riding horses and that sort of thing, so that was our team bonding, not drink-related.”

The fresh approach to the origin camp worked better for some than others, with one of the most infamous incidents taking place during a horse-riding exercise.

“Robbie Kearns fell off a horse and broke his leg,” Albert said.

“That’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Despite the incident, Albert took a lot away from his one and only Origin appearance, including a friendship he didn’t think he’d make.

“Amazingly I got on really well with Anthony Mundine, who I didn’t know well previously,” he said.

“He’s not the way he looks sometimes on TV, some-time he comes across as a totally different guy than what I know personally.”

Mundine was the sole try scorer in Game I of the series, which the blues remarkably lost 9-8 off the back of four penalty goals and a Matt Rogers field goal.