Panthers stars brush Origin talk
Two of Penrith's best players in the last-second win over the Eels on Sunday, Josh Mansour and Bryce Cartwright, each happen to be in the frame for the Blues this year – but neither way getting carried away with their chances after the game.
Winger Mansour is being spoken of as a possible replacement for either incumbent on the wing – the injured Brett Morris or Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate – while Cartwright has been touted as a bolter for a bench spot and was included in Andrew Johns' ideal NSW team.
With a number of the Blues' back-rowers such as Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman and Paul Gallen getting nearer the end of their interstate careers and incumbent Boyd Cordner racing the clock to stake his claim for Origin I, Cartwright is vying with the likes of Wade Graham, Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Joel Thompson, Jack De Belin and Ryan James for a bench spot.
After a slowish start to the season his two-try match-winning 80-minute effort on Sunday is exactly what he needed to keep his name in Laurie Daley's thoughts but the son of Penrith legend John Cartwright wasn't getting carried away.
"I haven't been consistent. I still think there were patches in my game [against Parramatta] that I could improve so much on," Cartwright said.
"It's going to take time just to get to my best but I'm working each week to become a better player for the team."
Prompted to comment on his inclusion in Johns' dream team for Origin I, Cartwright was diplomatic.
"It's hard not to let it go to your head but I've just got to do my best for the team and be more consistent week to week and just improve on my performance in the whole 80 minutes of the game and not make any silly errors and just do my best for the team," he said.
"It's definitely a goal [to represent NSW]. I'm not too sure if I'm ready but I'm just going to try my best each week and try and be as consistent as I can and if I'm doing my best for the team I'd definitely love to play."
Cartwright added he'd enjoyed his experience as 18th man for City Origin last year and was hoping to get a run in the annual Origin trial this year.
For his part, despite a vital try and a match-high 187 running metres in another busy game, all Mansour could think about after the game was a costly error – when he had the ball jolted from his grasp from behind on a kick return that led to an Eels try.
"I'm a bit happy but I was a bit disappointed with that one error in my game," Mansour said.
Mansour said was not really thinking about Origin at this stage but would also love to take the chance if it arose.
"I'm just worrying about myself and Penrith Panthers at this point. We've been going all right so far, we've still got a lot to work on but hopefully we have a good year," he said.
"One hundred per cent [it's a goal], it's the biggest stage in the NRL, I'd love to get my hands on a Blues jersey but in saying that I'm just worried about Penrith at this point."