Moylan out to make NSW No.1 his own
State of Origin debutant Matt Moylan is well aware of the expectation that will surround him when he puts on the No.1 jersey for the New South Wales Blues in this year's series.
Jarryd Hayne (2014) and Josh Dugan (2015) were both awarded the Brad Fittler Medal for being NSW's best players in recent series for their exploits at fullback, but Moylan doesn't want to get caught up in comparisons with those superstars.
While Hayne was an all-round attacking weapon and Dugan a metre-eating maestro, Moylan's strength lies in his ability to create opportunities for others.
The 24-year-old has made the most of his limited opportunities in 2016 producing seven try assists in seven games, averaging 102 metres per game and coming up with 11 offloads for the Panthers.
Dugan, meanwhile, leads the NRL with 209 metres per game, but has been credited with no try assists in 2016.
The Dragons fullback labelled Moylan as "one of the best in the game at the moment" and was happy to move to centre to make way for the Panthers custodian ahead of Game One.
Asked whether he was surprised to have replaced Dugan at fullback for Wednesday week's series opener, Moylan said the thought hadn't even crossed his mind.
"I didn't really think about it at all to be honest," Moylan said at the squad announcement at the Star on Monday afternoon.
"I was just coming back from a long layoff with injury and that sort of stuff so I was more focussed on just getting out there and making sure I was finding a bit of consistency and a bit of form in my own game and then letting this sort of stuff take care of itself.
"If I was thinking about it too much then I probably would have come back and sort of been struggling to find a bit of form and trying to overplay my hand a bit."
The Panthers skipper was restricted to just 11 games in 2015 after suffering a season-ending foot injury in Round 12 against the Eels, and was forced to sit out the opening month of the 2016 campaign with a back injury he picked up in the pre-season trials.
"The injury period was frustrating. Obviously I knew I was out for all of last year when I did it. To come back and have that pre-season and then to get another injury was very frustrating," he said.
"I just wanted to get out there and play some footy after the long layoff. Once I finally got back out there playing week to week is something I've really been enjoying of late."
Now that he has fought his way into the Blues side, Moylan is bracing himself for a challenge he has wanted to face since he first watched State of Origin matches as a child.
"I think 'excited' is probably a bit on an understatement. I was pretty rapt when I got the call last night and I'm just excited about the week ahead and just getting into camp and preparing well for Wednesday week," he said.
"It's a huge honour and a massive achievement and a big challenge that I'm really excited about. I just can't wait for the week ahead and getting into training and into camp and preparing well.
"Obviously growing up as a child it was something that I watched and was something I always wanted to get out there and play one day. I think it's the highest level in the game.
"You always want to test yourself against the best and to get out there Wednesday week will be a massive challenge that I'm really excited about."
Moylan said being in the extended squad for the 2015 series spurred him on to take the next step and force his way into this year's run-on side.
"It's definitely the biggest game that I've played in my career," the Panthers custodian told NRL.com.
"I've been to a few over the years. I was in camp so I went to Game One last year. Just being at that game last year and the atmosphere that was there was something that probably drove me to put myself in the frame for selection this year.
"I think [the biggest challenge is] just how tough it is and how fast it's been over the last few years. The intensity of the game and the challenge that brings is what excited me the most in making that next step up from club level."
Still a relative rookie compared to some of the other players in the squad, Moylan has never let age or lack of experience weigh him down.
In 2014 – his second season in the NRL – Moylan nailed a sideline conversion after the siren to win a game against the Bulldogs, kicked a field goal in the 80th minute to sink the Broncos and potted another one-pointer to down the Cowboys.
He said his preparation at training had prepared him for the big moments in games, and was confident that calmness would transfer to the Origin arena.
"I don't think I overthink things," he said. "I know that I've done the work at training and that I've prepared well so I just look at it like that. I know I've done the work so I should be able to do it out on the field."