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Martin Bella had success on Foley Shield final day as an under-18 player. His Mackay side defeated Herbert River after he had represented Queensland and Australia at that level for the previous two seasons. Bella left the North to play with Eastern Suburbs in Brisbane. After three seasons in Brisbane and two off-seasons playing for Halifax in England, Bella moved to North Sydney in 1986. He was picked in the Kangaroo touring team, playing in most games on the tour, but not the Tests. In 1987 he played State of Origin for the first time and in 1988 made his first Test appearance in the third Test against the touring Great Britain side, after Queensland had made a clean sweep of the interstate series with Bella and Sam Backo providing a memorable rampaging display of front row power. Bella and Backo, another North Queenslander, lined up for a repeat performance against the Blues in 1989 with another awesome display up front, as the Maroons again whitewashed the Blues. Bella again toured with the Kangaroos in 1990 and played a total of nine Tests for Australia, and a record twenty State of Origin games, a feat unequalled by any forward from either State. His career continued with the Canterbury club, which he joined for the 1993 and 1994 seasons, until his return to North Queensland to play with the newly formed North Queensland Cowboys in the expanded twenty team Australian Rugby League competition.