Highly-rated Eels youngster Tepai Moeroa is shaping up for a breakout season and says he will be looking to claim Parramatta's No.13 jersey as his own – with a Blues jersey next.
Moeroa also gave an update on an ongoing shoulder condition that will need to be managed throughout his career, saying it has come through the pre-season unscathed and hopefully won't interrupt his season.
It's easy to forget the Junior Kangaroos and PM's XIII rep is still only 20 years old as he heads into his third year in the top grade, and that taste of rep football has only made him hungrier to build on those achievements.
"Definitely playing Junior Kangaroos and the Prime Minister's game, that definitely put the extra bump in your step to make you want to see what more you can make, how much you can better yourself," Moeroa said.
The Cook Islands international was a star for the Eels in their triumphant Auckland Nines tournament as well as being one of the best on the field in their 22-8 last-start trial win against Penrith, and hopes he is approaching the level of his best football – which could put him in the Origin frame as early as this year.
"Hopefully I'm not far off. I'm still learning every session, there's always something new to learn so hopefully by Origin I'm playing consistent footy and I can hopefully take a stab at it (an Origin debut)," he said.
Moeroa started at lock in the trial, with Parramatta's first choice No.13, Anthony Watmough, still struggling with a chronic knee injury. While Moeroa hoped Watmough would be back on the park as soon as possible, he was blunt about his own ambitions to make that starting 13 jersey his own.
"This is my first time training there at the beginning of pre-season and I've really enjoyed it so far so it might be my long-term position, we'll see," he said.
"It is [a chance to grab a starting spot]. It's definitely up for grabs, the 13 jumper, but I'll be looking to have a real hot crack at it. Hopefully I can cement it for the year."
Of the shoulder injury that kept him to 19 top grade games last year (coach Brad Arthur chose to manage the youngster's workload by keeping him in NSW Cup for a period in the middle of the year), Moeroa said a nerve unusually close to the surface is the source of his troubles.
"I've got a condition with the nerves in my shoulder – they're closer to the surface than normally so they can't really operate on it or do anything," he said.
"I've just got to build the muscles around it. The whole pre-season we've been working on building those muscles around it and strengthening the shoulder.
"The Penrith game was definitely a tester for it to see where it was at and there have been no problems through that game and so far through our contact sessions so it's been good so far."
Moeroa said the shoulder had been going dead in almost every tackle at its worst last year but that problem hadn't reappeared so far in 2016.
"At the moment with all the testing and stuff we've been doing it's been holding up. Hopefully when we go into game situations, if it does happen we can look to a quick recovery for it.
"Pretty much every tackle [last year] would send it dead but I've done a lot of reps on it and it hasn't happened yet so it's holding up."