Big Dog Klemmer knows no Fear
He may have been the youngest on field but he was also the biggest and for young Bulldogs giant David Klemmer, rugby league is a simple game that holds no fear – and that's exactly how he plays it.
The combined 46 Origins of Maroons starting props Nate Myles and Matt Scott didn't worry him, nor the record 91,513 screaming fans, as he made a massive dent in a State of Origin for the second time in two matches of his fledgling interstate career.
Coming on after 31 minutes with his side slightly in the ascendency but desperately needing to maintain the momentum established by starting props Aaron Woods and James Tamou, Klemmer rolled up his sleeves and got to work, bending the Maroon line on every carry on his way to 95 metres from 11 powerful carries in just half an hour of game time, making 17 tackles for good measure.
Former Blues skipper Brad Fittler described Klemmer as one of the most fearless players he's ever seen and after the game Klemmer revealed the mindset that powers his simple but effective game plan.
"A big part of me is you're only in this lovely game for a short time and you've got to make the most of it," Klemmer said.
"There's nothing to be scared of, things happen for a reason. If you get injured or whatever you do, things happen for a reason and you've got to make the most of it."
It's easier said than done but Klemmer seems to be managing it just fine. Even his playing role is pretty simple when you break it down.
"It's just my role off the bench, I've just got to run hard and tackle hard, that's all I do, I've got to lay the line for the halves and do the best I can," he said.
It should come as little surprise, then, that nerves don't really come into it when the 21-year-old is preparing for a match – even one as big as the MCG crunch match or the July 8 Suncorp decider.
"I don't really think about it too much during the week, only when I run on. I start thinking about the game and the pace of Origin, that's when I start thinking about it, on the field," he said.
Klemmer praised the platform laid early by Woods and Tamou. "They were enormous for us, they laid that platform early. Me and Trent Merrin's role was just to come on and do the exact role as they did," he said.
And despite the plaudits he's already attracting the no-nonsense prop isn't getting carried away.
"Yeah I went alright mate, I've still got to fix a few areas in my defence and attack. You've just got to keep building. You've always got to train like you're second best and we've got a big ask going up to Suncorp.
"You've just got to keep performing at this level, that's the big thing, you've got to be consistent and there's still one more big game to go, we've got to prepare well for it, we've got to bunker down and get up there and do the job."
A noted firebrand on the field, having been suspended for three weeks earlier in the year for losing his cool at a referee, any fears Klemmer could find himself sin-binned in a fiery Origin grudge match were allayed on the night despite several flare-ups.
"I think we copped it a bit in Game One. I think we just played footy tonight, we did good as a team, we played good footy we tried to score points and we did, we scored points and the scoreboard showed it.
"I thought we handled it pretty well, we had cool heads in the last couple of minutes but we did well as a team."
Like everything else about his game, the message he shared with his teammates before the game was nice and simple.
"Just don't let each other down," he said.
"You want to walk off that field and look at the mate next to you [and know] that you put in and that's a big thing for us, not letting your mate down. It doesn't matter what the spectators think, it's the bloke that comes in after that game, looking at him and saying 'I did all I can.'"
This article first appeared on NRL.com