Ryan James is looking to push into the Titans 17 in order to stake his claim for Origin selection. Copyright: Renee McKay/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Gold Coast Titans forward Ryan James saw enough in New South Wales' Origin defeat in 2013 to convince him that the Queensland winning streak will end at eight, and he desperately wants to be a part of it.
Having finished 2013 as one of the form front-rowers of the competition, James made his first NRL appearance for 2014 against Canberra last weekend after a shoulder injury suffered in the club's opening trial disrupted what had to that point been his best pre-season to date.
He has been named 18th man on an extended bench for the Titans' Monday night clash with the Cowboys but with the likes of Matt Scott, James Tamou, Tariq Sims and Jason Taumalolo riding into town, it is unlikely Gold Coast coach John Cartwright will go into the clash without his most imposing forward as part of his arsenal.
For James it will represent the next step in proving his worth to Blues selectors having played in the NSW Under-18s alongside William Hopoate, Aaron Woods, Albert Kelly and Alex McKinnon in 2009 and then brought into the Emerging Origin squad in 2012.
During that camp he was indoctrinated into the Blues culture by then coach Ricky Stuart and trained alongside the likes of Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods, Trent Merrin, Tim Grant and Tony Williams, all of whom have played in the Origin arena in the two years since.
"They all pushed through and hopefully I can do the same thing," James said. "'Sticky' just came in and talked about Origin and what it means to you and obviously growing up and supporting the Blues... It's everyone's dream growing up and watching Origin and watching that sort of calibre of footy and you just want to make it to that level.
"It's another thing that drives you when you're playing footy. I really want to play in the blue jersey, so anything I can do this year to try and get anywhere near that would be great.
"Origin time comes around and you obviously watch the games and NSW played really well last year and I think it's probably their year this year to take it out."
Growing up at Bilambil less than 10 kilometres from the Queensland border, James could have been excused for having Maroon tendencies but the dominance of the Blues in the late 1990s and early 2000s left an impression on James that remains to this very day.
"I grew up supporting them and watched them win consecutive years back then. I still have my New South Wales Ryan Girdler jersey sitting at home, so it is a dream," the 22-year-old said of representing his state.
"I think he might have scored three intercept tries and kicked like a thousand goals and I just went and got his jersey.
"I've only played one game of first grade this year so I'm just going to have to play footy this year and try and put my best foot forward."
Dropped to the Intrust Super Cup towards the end of the 2013 season, James took note of the preparation of senior members of the squad such as Luke Bailey and Luke Douglas and vowed to have an impact upon his return.
Cartwright thrust him into the starting side for the Round 21 clash with the Wests Tigers and he responded by producing six consecutive performances totalling 164 metres, 201m, 164m, 169m, 176m and 187m.
"I watched some of the older fellas and they always do those little extras. Luke Bailey definitely has pride in the jersey and gives it 100 per cent every time," James said.
"A guy like Luke Douglas is first into training and last out so you need to take some of those things and put them into your own world.
"I'm pretty happy with my weight and my fitness, I just need to try and wriggle my way back into the side and try and get a starting spot."