Titans coach Gareth Brennan has a message for Blues coach Brad Fittler as he contemplates whether to include Ryan James in the team that will try and win the Holden State of Origin trophy for the first time since 2014 next Sunday night.
"He'd be in my team ... NSW would be crazy not to give him a crack," Brennan said after James led his Gold Coast side to a 22-point win over a hapless Bulldogs outfit at Belmore Oval on Saturday.
"He's such a big part of our football team. He's our captain and he leads… no Jarrod Wallace there today [suspension] so I asked Ryan to really step up again and grab the team and put it on his back and he did that. I thought he was enormous."
Ryan was close last time – an airline ticket had been sent to him for Origin I at the MCG.
But at the last minute Fittler chose David Klemmer, who coincidently opposed James today. The NSW coach had telephoned James to assure him he would remain firmly in selectors minds for games two and three in Sydney and Brisbane.
Match highlights: Bulldogs v Titans – Round 15, 2018
James did everything he could against the Bulldogs to prove he should be at ANZ Stadium on June 24. He played 74 minutes at prop; ran for 126 metres; made 11 hit-ups and 51 tackles and scored a try by busting through a Klemmer and Aiden Tolman tackle.
"I just like scoring tries to tell you the truth. If you're a front rower you don't get many," James said, when asked if he wanted to reinforce the point by making sure he out-played Klemmer.
"The last two weeks have been good for the Titans and when you're playing good for the Titans hopefully things come off the back of that.
"If it was to come, that'd be good, if not I'll just work harder.
"It was devastating," James said of being in and out of the Blues side in a matter of hours. "But I couldn't do much about it – just go out and play good footy. Freddy told me that night what his plan was for game one… and they won… so can't do much about it.
"Another opportunity is there but it's up to the selectors."
The broken jaw suffered by Penrith and Blues prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard is that very opportunity. But Dragons Tariq Sims will also be thinking along the same lines as James.
James said the Campbell-Gillard injury had not influenced his thoughts around today's game.
"We needed to start winning footy games ... We hadn't had a win for a while so it was all about getting out there and getting a win for the Titans."
James, 26, grew up in Tweed Heads and said he would love to pull on the Blues jersey.
"A childhood dream ...," said James, who had friends over to his house to watch Origin I.
"I'm not bitter. I still support the Blues. I just wanted them to win – that's what it came down to.
"He [Fittler] will pick the best side. If I'm in it, then I'm in… if not, I'm always hopeful. I'm still pretty young and still got a fair bit of footy in me."