Inside Word: City-Country can be career-defining
The City v Country match has always been special for me, growing up in the country in Temora, but this year the match has even more significance. This sort of game will define the careers of a lot future Origin players.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart will be at the game and has made it clear this is a genuine Origin trial, which is great.
As a result it has created a lot of public interest and there is pressure on the players to perform, but the pressure is always there in rep games.
All of the players know how special it is and, in the Country camp, which I have been involved in, they have all been very focused and are very well prepared.
Naturally, being a half, I have been working with the Country halves Jamie Soward and Jarrod Mullen who, as everyone knows, will be under a fair bit of scrutiny on Friday night with the NSW halves pairing one of the most contentious selections.
They need to be dominant against City for the Country team and also for their individual chances of making the Blues team.
It's not about me teaching them anything in particular. They, like the rest of the team, are all here because they are the best players in their club. It's all about getting the right attitude and getting them to play together and for each other and coach Lauire Daley and his assistant Matt Parish have been doing a great job in that area.
Jamie and Jarrod appear pretty relaxed, but they are also very focused. The whole team is. They are a good bunch of blokes and have gotten on really well.
Glenn Stewart is the Country captain and he is doing an excellent job in his first role as a rep team captain. Dragons props Trent Merrin and Dan Hunt have also been impressive and have shown they could handle Origin football.
The team got together in Sydney on Sunday night after the announcement a few hours earlier, and it was good to see the excitement on the faces of a lot of the debutants.
It underlines just how much earning a rep jersey means to players, regardless of whether it leads to Origin selection or not. The players chosen were genuinely proud and excited.
The team had a few very quiet beers - how things have changed - but it doesn't bother the players though. They were already starting to focus on the job ahead.
The next morning we were greeted with "great" news that we were losing Beau Scott and Kade Snowden to the Australian team ... I say great for them but a loss for us although it gives our young guys a boost and a realisation of how things can happen!
Losing Michael Ennis the next day was also a big loss but I was stoked for his replacment, Ryan Hinchcliffe, who is a Temora boy and a great competitor.
All in all, the whole week of activities from training to community and school visits has been great. We have a really balanced team who get on well and we are well-prepared for the match.
I am expecting a good performance and a win ... and hopefully Country can dominate our NSW team this year.