United in maroon: Morgan-Rose Cook

Fitness influencer and former elite gymnast Morgan-Rose Cook lives in Utah in America, but is firm on that fact you can take the girl out of Queensland, but you can’t take Queensland out of the girl.

The 27-year-old, who grew up on Brisbane’s bayside, said she was “one of the proudest Queenslanders” and took every opportunity to promote the state and its people.

“I travel the world and I always bring people back to visit Queensland because I feel like we’re down-to-earth… I don’t know what it is, but I feel like as soon as you cross the border into New South Wales, and this has always been a thing because there’s just a rivalry there, but I feel like they’re a different breed,” Cook said.

Cook, who admitted “my family are so ocker”, said her grandad lived around Rockhampton and growing up her dad worked across the state including in Bundaberg and Mackay, so for her Queensland always had “a small town feel as the second biggest state in Australia”.

“And we don’t have the numbers of population, but we do pretty well… we represent pretty well,” Cook said.

When Cook thinks of standout Queenslanders there’s a few who come to mind including Queensland Maroons great Wally ‘The King’ Lewis, superstar swimmer Emily Seebohm and surfers like Joel Parkinson.

“There’s just so much talent,” Cook said.

The Lourdes Hill graduate said it was Queensland’s landscape – as well as the people – that made it the ideal place to grow up and live.

“Was always out on the boat, always fishing, camping, surfing, always outdoors… my dad is a massive outdoors person – and our family is – so we’ve always spent time doing that… we never really grew up on the TV or with the internet,” Cook said.

“Internet and computers were a thing and they were coming in… we just never had it… even through my high school, I’d have to stay behind at school to do all my homework and stuff on the computer because we didn’t have one at home.

“So very outdoorsy, which I think is the epitome of being a Queenslander… we have great weather basically all year ‘round. We have the perfect setup to basically enjoy the 365 days we get in a year.”

The sport that dominated in Cook’s house growing up was AFL, with her dad Brendan Moroney – Brendan Fagg in those days – playing for the Brisbane Bears.

“Dad played AFL, made All Australian, played for the state… my family was a big AFL family,” Cook said, adding she went on to represent Queensland in the game in high school.

“However, my pop is a massive Cowboys fan… he grew up in Mossman in northern Queensland, so when it came to rugby league, it was my pop leading the interest.

Morgan's pop's hat, which she wears often. Photo: Supplied

Morgan’s pop’s hat, which she wears often. Photo: Supplied

“State of Origin was the one time my family would go all in on rugby league… go hard… growing up, I learned about rugby league through State of Origin because I didn’t watch the normal games.

“Companies my dad worked for at the time, they would have corporate boxes, so the only time we’d go and see live football – AFL or rugby league – was State of Origin and obviously the atmosphere was insane.

“And going to school on State of Origin days, you’d dress up in your colours and have fights with the boys and girls who, for whatever reason, were going for New South Wales. It was fun. The fun rivalry is my first memory of feeling that real ‘Queensland’ feeling.”

Cook, expecting her first child with bodybuilder husband Steve Cook, said she looked forward to “hearing everyone roar” and rocking everything maroon at State of Origin games every year.

“We had so much maroon from dad and me competing in gymnastics for 10 years,” Cook said.

Cook said players like Darren Lockyer stood out to her growing up but she wasn’t invested in any singular player, more the team and being part of the maroon army.

“It felt like I was a part of the team without actually knowing anything about the players, which was, I think, a funny distinction because again, the feeling that it gave me was like, ‘this is my team’,” Cook said.

“It just shows the feel and the vibe around it definitely draws people in.”

Cook said her earliest memory donning maroon was as a small child cheering her dad on when he played for the Bears, but the first time she wore maroon, representing Queensland in gymnastics, was as an eight-year-old.

“One hundred per cent, I remember feeling so good,” Cook said.

“It was the first time I ever had a team outfit, let alone actually wearing your state’s colour.

“I think the biggest thing is in gymnastics you actually walk out beforehand and they do this big presentation, kind of like what they do at the Olympics, where you have to walk out in your get up, you sit down, you listen to them go through what’s going to happen over the next week at the nationals.

“So not only was I putting on a full get up of maroon to wear to walk out to my first ever national competition at like eight years old, but I was also walking out with 50 other people that were doing the same thing, marching in unison and then standing there and literally being ‘team Queensland’.

“I’ve never really thought back on that, but it was such a cool thing. I ended up representing Queensland for like nine years following that.”

Cook said if she could have bottled up the feeling, it was one of patriotism.

“I just felt like it was the state putting you up on a pedestal and going ‘this is who represents us’… we’ve got to be the best of the best,” Cook said.

Cook said when it came to representing Queensland in Australia rules football, the feeling was just as good.

“Being a team sport, it really brought out camaraderie… your energy bounces off the people you’re there with,” Cook said.

“We were the rowdiest and loudest people… we would have enjoy ourselves but also play really hard.

“You’re putting forward your best people to represent you as a state and go out there and try and do as well as you can.”

Cook said now, she felt it was her job to get more people to understand how incredible Queensland was and how incredible Queenslanders were.

“Not just the place and the landscape itself, but the people… I always talk about home and I’m always driving people there,” Cook said.

Cook said in America people were increasingly interested in travelling to Australia.

“Australia is all the hype at the moment,” Cook said.

“I feel like for the past year or two, everyone’s been like, ‘oh, you know what Australia looks amazing’ and in my head, all I’m thinking is, ‘well, the only places you’re seeing is Queensland… you’re seeing all the beaches on the Gold Coast, you’re seeing the Great Barrier Reef, you’re seeing all these beautiful spots in Queensland’.

“Queensland is such a big part of what Australia provides and what Australia offers, you can kind of get it all in Queensland, in a sense.

“So I feel like it’s my job, honestly, to share how incredible Queensland – the Sunshine State – is outside of Australia. I’m so patriotic. I can’t even think about what it would’ve been like to be born in another state.”

Cook said now she always made sure she watched Origin – even though it played out around 4am her time – so she could chinwag with her grandad about it.

“It’s so nice to have a chat to him about it all… my family, my brother, my dad, they all love watching the footy so we definitely keep in contact about it,” Cook said.

“Go Queensland.”


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