Selfless act after missing out from James for Prior
Within minutes of being brushed for a long-awaited Origin debut, for the second time in as many games, Ryan James was into Matt Prior – congratulating him, and offering the 31-year-old rookie prop his contingent of tickets to Sunday's showdown at ANZ Stadium.
"It just goes to show what type of bloke he is," Prior told NRL.com.
"We all get a certain amount of tickets, he knew that I've got family and said you're playing, you're on debut so use mine to get them all there. He congratulated me. Things like that really sum him up.
"In that kind of situation where he'd obviously be disappointed, that says it all and he's been great around the camp the entire time."
James has been in Blues camp all week along with fellow shadow players Luke Keary and Tariq Sims, after initially being tipped as the leading replacement for Reagan Campbell-Gillard when he suffered a series-ending broken jaw.
The Titans front-rower had of course been all but on the plane for game one, with his bags packed and calls made for him to get from the Gold Coast to Sydney 24 hours before Brad Fittler assembled his team.
One David Klemmer masterclass later though and James was out of the frame for Origin I, coming back in and then out again this week with Prior getting the nod.
The similarities between Campbell-Gillard and the Cronulla enforcer are why the Blues plumped for Prior, with his impact in the middle and lateral defence preferred over James's work-rate and 80-minute efforts.
The unassuming Sharks big man has also been a subscriber to eastern philosophies long before Fittler's penchant for yoga, barefoot walks and phone bans transfixed the Sydney media.
Prior credits the breathing techniques and mindfulness Fittler so famously endorses for playing a role in his rise to the Origin arena.
For Prior it's been a wait well worth it, from his NRL debut with the Dragons in 2008 to a reserve-grade stint in 2014 with Cronulla before a stark turnaround that had him spearheading their maiden premiership charge and claiming 2016 Sharks player of the year just 18 months on.
"I do get into the breathing techniques, the yoga, I've been big on it for sure in the last few years," he said.
"Personally outside of footy it's helped me off the field and with staying nice and relaxed.
"Just throughout my career I've always looked at something a bit different trying to improve my footy, yoga helps with my flexibility and breathing techniques are good for the mind, later on in the career I've tinkered with my diet and preparation and that's all part of it.
"Going into a game like this I'm always pretty conscious of not overthinking things too much, you don't want to play the game in your head before kick-off so I've got my meditation and breathing that helps with that."
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