How close James came to Blues debut ... and Klemmer missing out
Ryan James was at home packing his bags on Sunday night. He had even been sent his flight itinerary by the NSWRL and was told to join the Blues in Coogee the following morning.
He was on the verge of making his State of Origin debut. Then his phone rang. It was Blues coach Brad Fittler. But the ensuing call was somewhat of a nightmare than a dream come true.
Between leaving the Central Coast on Sunday morning a day after playing against the Roosters - where he was told by Titans officials that he was part of the Blues' 20-man squad - and the moment the NSW coach called him some eight hours later, something had changed.
Earlier that day, NSWRL general manager of football Barrie-Jon Mather had phoned Gold Coast's football manager, former Blues representative Anthony Laffranchi to inform him of James's selection in a 20-man squad.
James flew home with his Titans teammates on Sunday after the loss to the Sydney Roosters on top of the world.
When he landed, the Titans organised for someone to meet him at the club's Parkwood training facility to collect his gear to take with him to Blues camp.
He went home and began packing his bags. At the same time, David Klemmer was playing a game of football 1000 kilometres away against the Wests Tigers.
"Before the game on Sunday, Freddy said he was still undecided where it was at," Klemmer said.
"He said 'you just got to have a big game today'. It probably just put it in my head that I had to have a big game. It was obviously in the back of my mind, but I was still worried about getting a win for the Bulldogs."
Klemmer, unaware that at that very moment James was packing his bags to replace him in the NSW team, responded accordingly.
Phil Gould is one of Fittler's closest confidants. There's no doubt he would have known how close it was when he was calling the Bulldogs-Tigers game for Channel Nine on Sunday, which also had Fittler commentating on the sidelines.
Gould, well aware that straight after full-time Fittler would head across the road to the NSWRL's headquarters to inform the board of his team, wouldn't have much of an opportunity to talk to him after the game.
Did he use his commentary to send Fittler a message about his thoughts on Klemmer?
In the 26th minute, just after Klemmer was brought into the game, Gould chimed in.
"Just watching David Klemmer. He's come off the bench again today and he's already thrown three passes into his work before the line," Gould said on Channel Nine.
"He's trying to mix his game up a lot. One of the big things for him is that when he runs the ball and gets gang tackled he's pretty easily put on to his back. If he starts finding his front a little bit more to get a quicker play-the-ball, they are little things you can see he's working on in his game."
Was that a not-so-subtle message to Fittler?
Then 43 seconds later, Klemmer injected himself into the game again.
"Good play by Klemmer," Gould said before Ray Warren continued calling the play.
Two tackles later the set was complete, and Gould was provided a replay of Klemmer's most recent involvement.
"Look at Klemmer, using his footwork a little bit, holding the ball out and looking for the offload," Gould said in the call.
"It makes a big difference when your forwards are doing that rather than crashing into them and being gang tackled."
Clearly, Fittler was listening. Because by the time the final whistle blew, Klemmer was in and James was out, as cruel as it may have been.
"I'm very passionate about this jersey. I thought I've always done my best playing for them," Klemmer said.
"Obviously, if they had different views I will have to try and prove them wrong. I'm just going to let my footy do the talking. If my footy warrants selection then so be it. If they don't like it, then what do you do mate?
"I just have to keep playing my football. I think I'm growing as a footballer. I think this is the best start I've had to a season in my career so far.
"I'm hungry. I want to succeed as a footballer ... The coaches at training say I have to add dimensions to my game. I'm obviously running into brick walls, and I want to play a couple of more years when I get older so you have to mix it up and play footy."
Blues lend a helping hand
The NSW Blues took some time out of their schedule for some boxing training on Tuesday afternoon at PCYC Woolloomooloo.
They also went and fed the homeless on the streets before a harbour cruise later that night.
Sims siblings not so simple for Freddy
There was one massive surprise when Fittler named his team during his phone hook-up with the NSWRL board on Sunday night.
He announced Ashton Sims was part of the squad, much to the amusement of his coaching staff. Most assumed he meant his brother, St George Illawarra's Tariq Sims, not the eldest of the Sims clan currently plying his trade for the Toronto Wolfpack in the English Championship.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.