James to use Sharks as Origin audition
If he was to be selected by Laurie Daley for Game One of the Origin series next week, it would be considered a bolt from the blue for many, but Titans forward Ryan James intends to use Saturday's clash with a Sharks forward pack bristling with rep experience to further push his case for inclusion.
In an up and down season thus far for the Titans James has been one of the shining lights, his shift to the left edge over the off-season by coach Neil Henry giving Gold Coast ball-players a powerful figure to dent the opposition defence.
He returned to his familiar position in the middle with the Country team a fortnight ago and made 86 metres from 42 minutes of game-time and was perhaps the only Titans forward to hold his own against the Raiders last week.
The Sharks forward pack to play the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday boasts Luke Lewis and Andrew Fifita – who both have Origin experience – and aggressive back-rower Wade Graham, who James believes is an Origin player in waiting.
"Fifita is a great player. He's played for Australia and New South Wales so he's one of those people who you look forward to opposing," James said.
"They've got great outside backs and Wade Graham also who I believe is an Origin player so it's good to come up against players like that coming into those sort of games.
"It's those games you need to stand up for your team and do the best you can.
"I thought I played all right in the City-Country game and hopefully put my best foot forward. All I can do is play well for the club and hopefully yeah, put my best foot forward."
With Greg Bird suspended for the entirety of the Origin series and Paul Gallen doubtful of being fit to take his place for Game I, there are a couple of vacancies among the NSW forwards that coach Laurie Daley needs to fill.
While effusive in his praise for the way James has played over the past month, Gold Coast coach Neil Henry remains unsure as to whether this is the year the 23-year-old earns his Origin call-up.
"When you look at New South Wales, they've got a lot of strength in that area," Henry said of James's claims for a spot in the back row. "I think he's thereabouts but that's the back row as opposed to the front row.
"He was tremendous on the weekend, he was by far our best player and he's been in some good form the last three or four weeks.
"I'm sure that Laurie would consider him but I think it might take a little bit more time."
Considered a prospective Blues representative for the past few seasons, James and Titans teammate Aidan Sezer spent time with Daley and the NSW coaching staff at the Blues-in-waiting camp, a camp he first participated in back in 2011.
While in camp with the Indigenous All Stars in February Daley was quoted as saying "I really rate Ryan as a person and a player. He's a guy who I've always had a lot of time for" and James said the pre-season camp was another step in the right direction.
"Me and 'Aido' went down at the start of the year and got to meet a few of the younger fellas like David Klemmer," said James.
"There were a heap of young kids down there and a heap of them had already played for their country so it was good to get down there and mingle with some of the players that hopefully you can play with in the future."