A BIT CHEEKY: Toby Black, owner of the Eltham Pub with his stuffed cane toad Wally.
A BIT CHEEKY: Toby Black, owner of the Eltham Pub with his stuffed cane toad Wally. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Eltham's sneaky cane toad

A COUPLE of years after buying the Eltham Hotel in 2008, Queensland-born State of Origin tragic Toby Black stood in front of the old country pub and decided it needed a repaint.

In what he described as a "little private joke", he painted it maroon.

"We moved down here and wanted to bring a little bit of home with us," said the self-confessed "one-eyed Queenslander", who was raised in Mackay.

"But we kept it very quiet - we didn't want to upset the locals. It was about six months before someone pulled me up on it. People never registered until Origin time - it just sort of flew under the radar."

Once word got out, his local clientele were so shocked by the audacity they thought he was joking.

"They were a bit upset for a while," Mr Black admitted.

"But it didn't scare them off - they love the pub."

The bond with his regulars has since become an affectionate love/hate affair at Origin time.

While he is a Maroons tragic through and through, he admits to selling more beer when the Blues win.

"The locals are definitely a lot happier - it makes for a better night at the pub," he said. "I do try to be the host."

Tonight he'll be cooking snags over the barbecue and possibly be "holed up in the corner" with a couple of other local Queensland expats.

Sometimes he even invites his family down for "moral support".

"My dad comes down most years and he's even more one-eyed than I am," Mr Black said. "I try to bring my nanna down too; she's the mother of all crazy Queenslanders."

So is he at all concerned the Maroons are nearing the end of their long-term dominance of the Origin series?

"I'm a little bit nervous about tomorrow; it's going to be a close one," he admitted.

But if the Blues prevail, Mr Black says he can always cuddle up to his two other banana state souvenirs - Wally his stuffed cane toad and Crusher his mud crab - both in full view on the bar.


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