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While most Origin hopefuls bided their time as they waited for a call from Blues coach Michael Maguire, Zac Lomax was running water for the Temora Dragons in a Saturday afternoon Group 9 clash.  

Lomax and Blues teammates Liam Martin and Angus Crichton were born in Temora, making it the most represented postcode in Wednesday’s State of Origin clash.

For a town of less than 5000 people, Temora has long been a breeding ground for bush footy stars with an honour roll including NRL coaches Trent Barrett and Todd Payten.

And for the local kids who saw the 25-year-old Dragons winger at Nixon Park just days prior, will be dreaming big when their hometown heroes run out onto Accor Stadium on Wednesday.

“We see Zac around a bit but he actually ran the water for our first grade on the weekend because he had the early game on the Thursday,” Temora Dragons president Jack Morton told

“I’m not sure how many State of Origin players were running water for bush clubs a couple of days before they get selected.

“The great thing about those boys is they come back and they never forget their school friends and old teammates, they’re never above them.

“They like to get back here, come to the club after the game - although it’s very hard to get Liam behind the mic - and they’re great value.

“I know they spend a lot of time signing autographs when they’re home but they just want to show the little kids around that if we can do it, you can too sort of thing.”

Picking up his first footy for the Temora Dragons’ Under 6's, three-time premiership winner Martin played all his junior years with the local club before joining the Panthers SG Ball team in 2015.

Having watched Lomax come through the grades at Temora, the nine-time Blues representative had no surprises when Maguire named his fellow former Dragon on the wing for Game One.

“I’m two years older but I played a fair bit of footy with his older brother Hayden and coming through, both of them were exceptional footballers,” Martin told

“I think they had footy in their bloodline. Their old boy Brad was pretty handy as well and you could tell Zac always had what it takes.

“It’s pretty crazy, there’s only about 4000 people and the amount of talent they’ve produced. You live and breathe footy down there, there’s not much to do other than sport so footy is a big part of it.

“It’s special to come from there and special to be able to represent them in this jersey. I just want to give it my all for them.

“The volunteers growing up too, through the schoolboys and club footy, without them there wouldn’t be a system, so I think that’s something they do really well in the community back home.”

Liam Martin hits the hole at pace

One of those volunteers is 79-year-old Morton, who has seen more than 25 Temora Dragons go on to play professional rugby league since first joining the club's committee in 1975.

With former NRL halfback Josh McCone captain-coaching first grade since returning home from Super League in 2021, Morton said no matter what players go on to achieve in the game, they never forget their roots.

“I remember Trent (Barrett) winning a premiership for the under 16s, Liam won one in the Under 15s and Under 18s and still today we’ve got young Jed Reardon (Bulldogs) and Charlie Guymer (Eels) in NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg,” Morton said.

“We do have a tremendous junior rugby league club here and it’s a great breeding ground for these boys.

Inside Camp: Angus Crichton

“Our first-grade side is also going well, we’re second on the ladder and the girls football is just growing and growing, we’re running out of ground space at the moment to be honest.

“They get a great opportunity here and I think the town would love to claim them but it’s them as individuals. They’re good sportsmen and it’s a credit to the work they put in and how they apply themselves.

“Volunteers is the greatest organisation in the world. We do it for the love of it and you do it for the next generation, hoping it can keep the club going and help someone down the track.”

Roosters back-rower Crichton will also be flying the bush footy flag when he returns for his first State of Origin appearance since 2022 on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old grew up playing with a rival Group 9 club the Young Cherrypickers, however is proud to be repping the 2666 postcode alongside his teammates on Wednesday.

“I was born in Temora but I lived in the middle of Temora and Young, but It’s pretty crazy to have three of us from a tiny town like that, there must be something in the water out those ways," Crichton told

“I can’t wait to run out on the big stage together, especially me and Marto both being the back-rowers.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.