Knights stars get Origin boost
Future Origin hopefuls and Newcastle stars Tariq Sims and Sione Mata'utia are hoping time spent in the NSW Coffs Harbour camp in the lead-up to Origin III will help them take their games to the next level and provide a boost to the struggling Knights.
Sims was drafted in for the Blues' Origin II camp as 18th man after Dragon Tyson Frizell was injured and maintained the role for Origin III, and he told NRL.com the taste has made him hungrier.
"Just to see the ins and outs of it all, it just made me a bit more hungry to want that sky blue jersey and obviously to get called in [as 18th man] for the decider game and to help prepare the boys as best we can, it's very exciting," Sims said.
"Mate I want to get out there so bad but I just have to make sure I bide my time and do my role as best I can in preparing the team."
Just last year Bulldog Josh Jackson was Blues 18th man and is now a fixture of Laurie Daley's side, giving Sims hope if he continues to improve an Origin debut is not out of reach in the coming seasons.
"Jacko did a lot of hard work, he didn't rest on what he achieved that year, he did a lot of hard work and that's what I've been trying to do," he said.
"We're doing it a bit tough in club land [at Newcastle] at the moment but me and Sione are making sure that when we go back to club land we're trying to put our best foot forward and play our best football because people are always watching."
Sims is hoping the time around camp can improve his skills and the way he prepares for games.
"The way I'm looking at it is just soaking it all up and making sure I'm doing the best thing for the Blues squad then when I go back to club land making sure I'm doing everything that I should be on and off the field."
Mata'utia, who became Australia's youngest Test debutant in last year's Four Nations, only turned 19 a week before the Origin III camp and was flattered NSW coach Laurie Daley even considered him to be on the radar.
"It means a lot for Laurie to even think about my name and to put me in the mix is awesome," Mata'utia told NRL.com.
"I know I'm just here for the experience and to see what's it's like, to see how the boys prep for an Origin game but that in itself is a massive honour for me. I'm truly honoured and grateful."
He said the differences between club and state football had been stark.
"It's from the start, non-stop talk and intensity, everything's done at a quality expectation and that's probably one of the main things that I took out of it. Those things I'm learning I can take back to my club and try and use it down there."
He also paid tribute to the Newcastle Knights system for putting him in a position to be around the Origin set-up.
"It's a credit to the boys at Newcastle and the coaching staff have put a lot of confidence in me and helped my footy. I'm pretty happy where I am at the moment, being here and experiencing it all... Hopefully I get a crack in the next few years and we'll see how we go."
Mata'utia said he had spoken to Sims about the opportunities each had been presented with.
"I spoke to 'Taz' on our way down to the airport in Sydney. He's experienced it before [in Game Two] and I asked him what it's all about and he just said 'mate you'll have the time of your life'. That's the only thing you can do is just take everything in and that's what I'm here to do."
Sims laughed when reminded of Mata'utia's age-defying achievements.
"He only just turned 19 last week and to see what he's achieved in the game – obviously he's got a lot more he wants to achieve and he's got such a bright future and it's exciting times that he's with us for the next couple of years," Sims said.
Both men were speaking at a community visit in Coffs Harbour during the week, where Blues squad members and development players – also including James Tamou, Josh Jackson, Michael Jennings, Will Hopoate and Ryan Hinchcliffe – were helping out some young local players in a skills session at the Coffs Coast Adventure Centre.
Each spoke of their privilege at being able to give back to a country rugby league community.
"Mate I'm a country kid, to see the smiles on their faces and how enthusiastic they are about rugby league in general and how keen they are to learn just off the drills they're doing here, it's a two day camp from what the boys have been telling me and it's awesome to see and it's great that the bush footy's going so well. We've got to hang onto these grass roots," Sims said.
"It's great for the game and the NRL for putting this on and making sure these things and these clinics never go away. Footy's alive and well out in the bush."
Mata'utia said such community visits were part of the enjoyment of being in camp.
"Just trying to put a smile on a kid's face, show up, let them know a few tips," he said.
"Hopefully out experience here will bring more players into the sport of rugby league. It's the least we can do while we're in camp."