Robbie Farah made a record 64 tackles to help NSW level the Origin series last night without knowing his mother, Sonia, had taken ill after the family decided to keep the news secret from the Blues hooker.
Sonia Farah, who was diagnosed with cancer late last year, was due to attend the match with the rest of the Wests Tigers captain's family and he said afterwards he had been looking up to where she was meant to be sitting in the crowd. However, she was not feeling well enough to attend the game and watched it from hospital.
''I thought she was here but my family hid it from me that she went back into hospital this morning and she couldn't make it here tonight,'' Farah said.
''I was looking for her, I thought she was up there somewhere, but she watched it on telly in hospital ... I am told she watched the whole game and she is obviously very proud.''
Farah's brother, Eddie, said the family had decided not to tell Robbie because they did not want to distract him on the eve of such a big game. ''It was sort of a last-minute decision and we thought it was better not to tell Robbie until after the game,'' Eddie said. ''She is comfortable, she watched the game from her hospital bed and she is over the moon for Robbie, especially as he played so well.''
Farah said he did not know how many tackles he had made until told by former NSW great Brad Fittler during a television interview.
The previous record in State of Origin was 60 tackles by Queensland forward Dallas Johnson.
''I knew I had made a lot of tackles but when they keep running at you you have just got to keep making [them],'' said Farah, who did not miss any tackles.
''As a hooker, they always run at you. I am the little guy in the middle and I guess the fact that they knew I was going to play 80 minutes tonight without a utility on the bench, they probably tried to burn me out - but you have just got to keep showing up. We spoke all week about working for your mate in the blue wall, no matter what is being thrown at you, and they had repeat set after repeat set during the second half so it is a credit to the boys.''
Asked what the achievement meant to him, Farah said: ''I am proud of it. I guess a lot of people recognise my attacking ability with the ball but defensively I have worked really hard the last couple of years and in Origin you have just got to step up and do it. Tonight was probably more of a workload than I have ever done but in this arena you just don't want to let anyone down. I didn't want to let Sticky [coach Ricky Stuart] down, I didn't want to let the jersey down, the players that have played in the past, so you have got no option. You have just got to keep showing up no matter how tired you are.''
Targeted by the Queensland runners, Farah had made 36 tackles by half-time, including a heavy hit on Billy Slater after a chasing a Blues kick that left the Queensland fullback hobbling with a knee injury. ''We had spoken about our kick-chase all week and that was an important part of our game,'' he said. ''I saw a chance to get a shot on him and I got down there but again I just did what I had to do.
''We hung in there at the end, I did what I had to do and other boys did what they had to do. It is a team performance and everyone played their part. It was a great team result. You are not going to beat Queensland without a team performance, that is what we did tonight.''
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