James targets Four Nations berth
Gold Coast Titans forward Ryan James has vowed to use this Saturday's game for the Prime Minister's XIII to prove to Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga that he is worthy of a place in his 24-man Four Nations squad to tour England in November.
In the past the PM's XIII squad has come largely from players on the verge of representative selection but Meninga has named an 18-man squad full of established Test and Origin stars to travel to Port Moresby and play the PNG Prime Minister's XIII.
The PM's XIII squad will gather in Brisbane on Wednesday and have an open training session at Langlands Park in the afternoon before flying out on Thursday, Penrith skipper Matt Moylan the final addition to the touring party.
James, Jake Friend (Roosters) and Mitchell Moses (Wests Tigers) are the only members of the starting 13 yet to have played Test or Origin football and encouraged by Meninga's earlier statement that the fixture is being used as a genuine selection trial James said he will go to PNG with every intention of proving that he is deserving of the Kangaroos jersey.
"I'm treating it like I'm trying to get an Australian jersey," said James, who on Monday night was a runaway winner of the Paul Broughton Medal as the Titans' best player for 2016.
"I haven't seen a team like that be picked for a very long time and to be a part of it is a great honour.
"Playing in a side along with New South Wales and Queensland players, I'm probably the only guy that hasn't played Origin so it's going to be great to be a part of it and play with some of those players and learn a lot from the week.
"Confidence is high and I'm still feeling fit. I've had six or so days off, had a couple of runs so I'm feeling good and hopefully I can push my case for that green and gold jersey."
Giving credence to former Wests Tigers and Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens' belief that players don't become first-graders until they have played 100 games, James played every game in an NRL season for the first time in his career in 2016, finishing the year with a career tally of 93 appearances.
He could barely get the words out without getting emotional as he thanked his wife Ana and his parents for the support they have provided in accepting the award, telling NRL.com that the arrival of his son Carter almost 12 months ago provided the motivation to go beyond what he even thought possible.
Not normally an indicator to a prop forward's performance, James's 12 tries were the most by a front-rower in a premiership season in the game's history in Australia as he finished sixth in the NRL for total tackles (971), 11th in total runs (385), sixth in charge downs (three) and eighth in decoys (138).
"We sat down with the player reviews and I looked at my stats this year and compared them to previous years and other props in the game and I was pretty surprised myself," James said.
"I didn't realise I was going that well and definitely opened my eyes and put a bit more belief back in myself.
"[Becoming a father] changed me a lot as a person with different responsibilities and making sure I was always doing my best for my family definitely helped off the field which translated on the field.
"I've got a family to look after now. He came three days before pre-season started so I went into pre-season with minimal sleep but you go and do your best.
"He's been great, Ana's been great, both the grandparents have been great and without that support network I probably would have struggled a bit.
"They do a lot of the hard work behind the scenes and they probably don't get recognised enough for it.
"It was good to try and recognise them tonight but I usually get really emotional when I speak about my parents and my wife so I just kept it short and sweet."
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