Prior happy to buck trend of 'Baby Blues' ahead of Origin II
Matt Prior is bucking the trend of the 'Baby Blues' for the NSW Origin team in 2018.
The Cronulla front-rower is 31 years old, has played over 200 NRL games, and became a father a month ago.
"I think I'm the second-oldest here," Prior told NRL.com. "Thank goodness Jimmy [Maloney] is the oldest. I'm glad I'm not the veteran in my first Origin game.
"I don't think age matters. With recovery methods the way they are there are lot of guys in their 30s are playing great football.
"Look at Lewie [Luke Lewis] and Gal [Paul Gallen] at the Sharks. See how well they're going and they're both older than me."
Of course Prior is still be to be confirmed for game two at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on Sunday, as coach Brad Fittler must choose between the Shark and a Titan – Ryan James – to fill the vacancy left by injured Panthers enforcer Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
James is no slouch and at 26, is five years Prior's junior.
But the two-time premiership winner – Dragons in 2010 and the Sharks in 2016 – has been on fire.
Take the last four club games from the Telstra Premiership season and Prior has made a total of 123 tackles, missing only two.
He also made 160 post-contact metres in those four games at the average of 40 per match.
In addition to that Prior is making an average 105 metres over the 15 rounds he's played this year, with a 93 per cent tackle efficiency.
"Probably for those reasons – defence mainly – and the good energy I can bring on the field," Prior said, when asked what he thought got him over the Blues selection line.
"I like doing the little things well. In the big games those little jobs pay off and can help you win you the game."
Prior would love the chance to play for NSW. He thought that off the back of Cronulla's title, he might have had a strong chance in 2017.
It didn't eventuate, but he never lost hope.
"I always wanted to play – I never ruled it out. You always think if you're playing good football someone is noticing. I suppose it's always been on my radar… in the back of my mind."
If Prior gets the nod he becomes only the second player from the Thirroul Butchers club to play Origin.
"Peter Wynn played there and he played State of Origin," Prior said.
"The 'Butchers' sounds like a good name to play Origin doesn't it? Fresh meat, raw meat… it's a great club. I'm very proud to be from there."
So apart from a few bloodied bodies, what else does Prior expect from his maiden Origin?
"What I've got off the boys so far is that it's 100 miles per hour; everything is just flat out and be prepared for fast,'' he said.
"They told me I'd be gassed after the first 10 minutes."
The only regret is that daughter Indie isn't old enough to remember seeing her Dad play Origin, although partner Rebecca will be there.
"Indie won't be watching it…. she will be fast asleep at her grandparents house," said Prior philosophuically.
"We're still deciding on a middle name…"
Perhaps 'Origin winner' ?
"Maybe… it has a nice ring to it."
Don't miss Game II of Origin at ANZ Stadium on Sunday 24 June. Get your tickets here