Ben Blaschke,, NRL.com
Even without the knowledge that he won't be earning a recall to the New South Wales side on Sunday afternoon, Kade Snowden remains driven by a desire to once again don that sky blue jersey.
Having debuted for the Blues in Game Three of the 2010 series and retained his spot for the opening game in 2011 before a bulging disc in his back stopped him in his tracks, Snowden struggled to rediscover his best form after moving from Cronulla to the Knights last season and hasn't been seriously mentioned as an Origin candidate since.
But the towering prop believes that is starting to change.
"That was the main goal after coming back to Newcastle – getting back to the form I was in at Cronulla when I was playing Origin," Snowden told NRL.com ahead of Sunday's clash with Canterbury in Mackay. "The form is up there but I've got to keep going on with that now and play like that every week.
"I've never stopped wanting to play Origin so I'm happy that I'm back in the mix again and if I just keep playing the way I have… I know I won't be there for Game Three this year but maybe next year I’ll be back in. That's what my goals are and that's what drives me to keep improving."
Snowden missed his opportunity for selection this year when Wests Tigers youngster Aaron Woods was called into the NSW side for Game Two in the absence of the suspended James Tamou.
But he has caught the eye with his performances at club level, having run for 138 metres – the most by any Knights forward – in last week's thrashing of the Gold Coast and a game-high 187 metres in the narrow loss to Melbourne a fortnight earlier.
All up, Snowden is averaging 141 metres per game in 2013 – a full 37 metres per game increase on the 104 he averaged last season.
"Last year wasn't a very good year for me, just trying to get the strength in my back to where it was before the injury," he said. "It took me a while to find my feet again but even at the start of this year I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty good year. I haven't felt my back since I moved to Newcastle. I guess I've been having a bit more of a go too, so I just need to keep going the way I've been going because we need to get to the semis."
Last week's big win over the Gold Coast couldn't have come at a better time for the Knights, who were at risk of falling away from the top eight after losing their previous four games although Snowden said the players never doubted that they have been heading in the right direction.
"It's not like we were playing bad, we were just getting beaten in some close games," he said. "We'd start well and I think we were leading at halftime in most of those games but we were clocking off in the second half.
"Our performance against Melbourne (a 16-14 loss) was very good and hopefully we see that as the start of our run home because that’s what we need to do if we want to be anywhere near the top eight."
The Knights face the blue and whites this Sunday knowing they have already beaten them once this season when they tore them apart 44-8 back in Round 10 but Snowden said he was expecting a far tougher outing this time around.
"We probably ambushed them a bit last time but they’ll be ready for us this week," he said.
"They were still getting a lot of their best players back last time. The side they’ve got now has one of the best forward packs in the game. Last time we played them we just dominated their forwards and their backs couldn't do anything so that will be the main thing for us again this week.
"It's the sort of game we need to be winning because if we don't make the finals we'll be pretty disappointed. We're a top-eight side."