Mitchell Barnett rewarded with State of Origin debut after sad family sacrifice for NSW

The Warriors forward has opened up on his decision to miss the birth of his second child to help the Blues.

Mitchell Barnett has revealed he missed the birth of his second child so he could train with the NSW squad ahead of State of Origin 1, but his sacrifice has now paid off with a debut for NSW in Game 3. Barnett was picked on the NSW bench for the Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday, taking the place of the axed Haumole Olakau'atu.

Blues coach Michael Maguire admitted Olakau'atu hasn't done much wrong, but the form of Barnett was too hard to ignore. The Warriors forward can play in the front and back row and offers a better work-rate than Olakau'atu.

And the sacrifices Barnett has made for his state were also part of Maguire's reasons. The 30-year-old revealed on Monday that he opted to remain in Australia and miss the birth of his second child in New Zealand last month so he could train with NSW before Origin 1 - even though he wasn't even playing.

Mitchell Barnett and wife Clare.
Mitchell Barnett and wife Clare chose for him to miss the birth of their second child. Image: Instagram/Getty

Barnett was part of the 20-man squad, but not in the final 17 that played on gameday. He flew home to Auckland (where he plays for the Warriors) before Origin 1, but didn't arrive in time to witness the birth of son Zane.

Mitchell Barnett, pictured here at NSW training ahead of State of Origin 1.
Mitchell Barnett (R) at NSW training ahead of State of Origin 1. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

"It was just a decision my wife and I made and an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Barnett told reporters on Monday. "It was a great moment for me, and it will make for a cool story one day with the family. It was a cool moment.

"[The birth] was planned, but I had an obligation to help the boys - I trained here and got on a flight knowing I'd miss it. It was an opportunity and I had to be here, it was my first time being selected in the group.

"I wasn't the only one who sacrificed stuff, all the boys sacrificed things. The fans probably don't see what NRL players do on a daily basis in terms of sacrifice, they move away from family and all that sort of thing, but it's a short career and you have to make the most of it."

Mitchell Barnett and wife Clare, pictured here with baby son Zane.
Mitchell Barnett and wife Clare with son Zane. Image: Instagram

Barnett and wife Clare are now trying to organise a passport for four-week-old Zane so he can fly to Brisbane to be at the Origin decider. "[I focused on] being the best teammate possible. Whatever anyone needed, I was ready to do," Barnett said. "That's something I live by, being the best teammate possible, whether that's playing or not playing. It was a new role for me but I just wanted to do everything I could to win."


Barnett considers himself a changed man since moving to the Warriors. He started his career with stints at Canberra and Newcastle, but ill-discipline saw him cop a number of suspensions.

"It's been about a three-year process for me, maturing," he said. "I just realised along the way, natural progression in life. I have people who believe in me at the Warriors, and that really helps.

"My wife, my mum and all of my family (have helped). I had to work a little bit on myself. Having a coach (in Andrew Webster) who believes in me helps as well. (CEO) Cam George at the Warriors has been amazing. They have tidied a few things up just to get me to where I am."

with AAP