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'I love my footy, I love my state' - Kurt Mann

Winton product Kurt Mann feels right at home in Queensland Maroons camp, surrounded by players he has grown up playing with or against, and he is soaking up every second. 

The 28-year-old utility, who plies his trade with Newcastle Knights week in, week out, said it was "pretty surreal" to be called into Game III camp by coach Paul Green. 

"It's something you always dream of doing as a kid... I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity, so I'm pretty excited," Mann, who was named as 19th man, said.

"I got a phone call from Greeny on the Sunday. It was Sunday night, we played on the Saturday and yeah, he just said I was going to be in camp with the boys. The next day I was on the plane and straight into camp, so it was all pretty quick.

"I was excited, then pretty nervous. But I pretty much know everyone in the team... I've been around a long time now in footy years, so I know a fair few of the boys. They're a great bunch of blokes."

Mann in the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Mann in the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

Mann, newly a dad-of-two, said he was soaking up everything about the experience. 

"I grew up in a small country town called Winton, in Queensland... there's only about 900 people," Mann said.

"My junior team is the Winton Devils and everyone out there is pretty excited I got the call into camp. I'm really happy.

"I played all junior rep footy - 15s, 18s and played the first under 20s Queensland game as well, so yeah, got to play all of them, but this is my first time in first grade camp.

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

"Camp has been good. We're in the COVID bubble, so there's not a whole lot we can do, but that brings the boys pretty close. You spend a whole lot of time with the boys because of the bubble, which is good.

"Training has been intense. We had a sharp training session on Friday, which was really good."

Mann said he had particularly enjoyed spending time with Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston. 

"It's been unreal, really," Mann said.

"JT is probably one of the greatest players to ever play for Queensland, or ever play the game. I play a bit in the halves as well so just to see how he conducts himself in and around training, and the way he speaks about game plan stuff, has been really interesting."

Mann said being one step closer to a debut was "pretty exciting" because being able to represent his town, his family and the state would be a dream come true. 

"I'd be excited but also pretty nervous," Mann said.

"I'd grab it with both hands. It's not something you'd let slip by you. To be given that opportunity, if I was to get the job, I wouldn't let anyone down. 

"Being a Queenslander means a lot of things. People come from different backgrounds... to me, I grew up in Winton... it's a small country working class town where footy is religion out there.

"I love my footy, I love my state... to be able to represent the state and my family as well would be pretty special."