It’s been 1,699 days since cousins Edrick Lee and Brenko Lee laced their boots for the same side, but there’ll be no need for reintroductions as State of Origin Game III becomes a family affair.
Brenko played 15 NRL games for the Canberra Raiders between 2014 and 2016, four of those alongside his cousin Edrick, before moving on in search for a permanent starting role. He’d bounce around Canterbury and the Gold Coast before eventually landing in Craig Bellamy’s hands at Melbourne.
Edrick? A Raider for five NRL seasons, Lee’s last game for Canberra was one to forget as the lanky winger bombed multiple tries in a preliminary final against Melbourne, before being moved on to Cronulla the following pre-season. The flanker has found a home in Newcastle on the left wing, though he’ll find himself on the right edge tonight filling in for Xavier Coates.
While their journeys have taken them on separate paths, the cousins will reunite in the Queensland Maroon’s backline at Suncorp Stadium tonight, a victory would leave the duo as Origin series winners, a matter of hours after the two sit in the change rooms, waiting to make their debut.
In fact, if asked neither would say the opposite is their most famous cousin – that’d be Patty Mills, a point guard for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA.
If you couldn’t guess by now, success is in their veins.
Ask Brenko, 12 months ago the centre began mulling his future. He was told by the Titans he wouldn’t be retained, and retirement started crossing his mind. What if this was it? He made the move to Melbourne to trial with the Rebels in the Super Rugby competition, and a few weeks in those thoughts started swirling again.
Enter ‘Bellyache’, and now Brenko Lee is a premiership winning centre, about to run out in a decider for his state. You can’t blame him for asking himself the tough questions, his move to Melbourne wasn’t just his fourth NRL club, it was the fourth state/territory he’d had to live in, to move to for his dream.
Edrick has had different battles, while his biggest move was Canberra to Cronulla, the winger has struggled on the injury front, a host of arm fractures have stalled his development, but after 116 NRL games over nine seasons, Lee will finally run out for his cherished Maroons.
He’s come mighty close to a call up before. He was the 18th man for Queensland a whopping FIVE years ago. Lee warmed up alongside stars like Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk when he was a 22 year-old youngster. Little did he know he wouldn’t run out in that jersey until the ripe old age of 28, one of three debutants in the Maroon’s backline.
While he won’t be alongside stars like JT, GI, Cam Smith and Billy the Kid, he’ll carve his own story with names like Cherry-Evans, Munster, Papalii and Gagai.
While it’s been close to 243 weeks since these cousins last came together, their rep careers are just beginning to be forged as they not only chase a series win in their maiden appearances, but more importantly, make the Lee surname proud.
And if their careers so far, the resilience they’ve shown and battles fought are anything to judge them by, they’ll do just fine on debut tonight.