Gun Manly rookie Tom Trbojevic says a couple of days in Coffs Harbour participating in training sessions with the NSW team under Laurie Daley has opened his eyes to the level the sport's elite players operate at and hopes it can help boost his own game.
The 18-year-old was one of five Holden Cup players flown up to Coffs to run against the Blues in two opposed sessions late in their build-up, with Trbojevic tasked with playing the role of Queensland fullback Billy Slater as NSW tested their defensive formations.
"I just looked at the professionalism and the whole intensity of the Origin camp; it was just awesome to be around the playing group and just to see the way they hold themselves on and off the field was just an amazing experience," Trbojevic said.
While Trbojevic wasn't there to build his own playing skills he got a lesson in the mental side of preparation.
"Maybe not skill-wise but just the mentality, to know what the mentality is you need at that level, [is] what I took out of it," he said.
The youngster was a shining light for Manly in the agonising last-gasp 18-14 loss in Townsville on Saturday, running a team-high 194 metres after being a late inclusion on the right wing.
He scored one try, bringing his tally to three in three top-grade games, when he used his height to latch onto a cross-field kick. He was unlucky to be denied earlier in the game after a length-of-the-field intercept run was undone in the act of scoring by a stunning chase by Cowboy Michael Morgan.
Despite the loss, Trbojevic said he was loving his time in first grade so far and the support of Manly's senior players.
"Yeah I'm going good, I'm enjoying my time in first grade, it's obviously a dream to play first grade and doing it now it's pretty awesome," he said.
"A lot of help's come from the players around me so it's been very easy to slot in. The senior players, your Brett Stewarts, your Jamie Lyons, stuff like that, they've been great to me off the field and it's made my job a whole lot easier."
A natural fullback, the highly-rated youngster is seen as the natural heir to Brett Stewart's No.1 jersey but he certainly isn't getting ahead of himself.
"I do enjoy playing fullback but as long as Brett Stewart's here he'll be there. He's a great player and he's offered me a lot of advice in pre-season, it's been very helpful," Trbojevic said.
While the loss to the Cowboys was hard to take, he added there were plenty of positives the side could take out of it ahead of another tough road trip and short turnaround to face the in-form Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
"It was obviously very tough with the effort the boys put in throughout the whole game [against the Cowboys] to just get taken away like that," he said.
"[It] was pretty heartbreaking but I think we've got to look at the positives from that game and look at the way we performed as a team throughout the game and and hopefully bring that into the Broncos game and we can hopefully hold that for the full 80 minutes.
"It gives us a bit of confidence to know we can match it with the Cowboys who are one of the top sides in the comp and hopefully we can bring that form into the next game against the Broncos."