Yvonne Sampson joins the big league in new footy channel
STATE of Origin is the pinnacle of sporting prowess for millions of rugby league fans, but for television presenter Yvonne Sampson it still brings a tear to her eye.
Last year was the first time a woman hosted the State of Origin telecast, and the moment was not lost on Yvonne.
"There is no greater stage than the State of Origin arena," she said. And Yvonne was centre stage.
"I was everywhere. I was flooded with so many emotions; nerves, fear, pride, anxiety, happiness, euphoria. It was everything I hoped," she said.
"I thought I wouldn't be anywhere near a State of Origin broadcast, let alone in the chair. It was an amazing experience."
Yvonne is one of the country's leading rugby league broadcasters. But the State of Origin was not just another job, and rugby league is not just a game for her.
"There is nothing like rugby league. Sometimes the bad guy wins, and then mostly the good guys win (Queensland)," she said.
Yvonne's love of the game was nurtured during her childhood growing up on a farm in Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast.
She was born in Townsville but was adopted into a Sunshine Coast family who couldn't have children of their own.
Yvonne's adoptive parents had planned for a big family, but Yvonne's father was 35 when she was adopted, and they soon realised a large family was out of the question. She was an only child.
"We didn't have the big family they hoped for, so I think I was my dad's right hand man. I did everything on the farm - building fences, building stables, slashing paddocks. I was someone he could watch the footy with," she said.
"As an only child I loved hanging out with dad."
She was expected to work hard, and it instilled a strong ethic.
"I think my father (who died when Yvonne was 20) would be horrified to know that he raised a feminist. By the very definition of feminism everyone is equal. I don't think that was his intention, but he certainly created one."
Rugby league was the sport watched in Yvonne's household.
"I think like a lot of people I fell in love with rugby league as a little girl ... State of Origin, grand finals, all those big moments the family would come together to watch the games," she said.
"And because it brings the family together you then fall in love with the game because of the family.
"Rugby league and family for me are one and the same."
Bringing family together is important for Yvonne, because her family members stretch from Palmwoods to Townsville.
She always knew she was adopted, and met her biological family when she was in her late teens.
But there are still parts of the puzzle missing for Yvonne and her biological father.
"My birth father was raised by his grandmother and he was told that his mother had died, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that he found out she had not died. And his mother had been told that he had died. There is a fair bit of hurt and a lot of questions on that side, especially from his perspective.
"His journey has just started. It's a piece of my genetic puzzle, and there are still a few pieces missing."
Yvonne has also taken to a new family at Fox Footy this year.
"I'm beyond thrilled to be with the Fox Sports team. I loved and adored every moment at Wide World Of Sports, but when I found out what Fox League had in store for 2017, it was just too good an opportunity to be passed up," she said.
"A 24-hour rugby league channel was something that every fan wanted, and as a rugby league fan myself it's something I wanted.
"To be part of that group to get it off the ground ... it was a once-in-a-career opportunity."
Yvonne has moved into the hornet's nest, Sydney, but she promises as soon as she does not have to be there she "will be back home".
One of the four shows she will be involved in is League Life. It's a show hosted by women and targets a family audience.
On her career in broadcasting and the highlight, so far, of hosting the State of Origin, Yvonne has one overriding priority.
"You hope that your family is proud," she said.
NRL 2017 started on Thursday, and Fox League is broadcasting on Channel 502.