After a "rock bottom" stint in reserve grade last year, Josh Mansour is hoping to cap his career resurgence with a recall to the Blues.
Having played for NSW in 2016 and the Kangaroos in 2014 and 2017, form and confidence issues led to the tackle-busting sensation being dropped to reserve grade last season. His career was at the crossroads.
Now the 30-year-old has rediscovered his best footy, with 11 tries, 19 line breaks, 65 busts and 180 metres per game for the table-topping Panthers.
Mansour conceded he had let himself think about the possibility of adding to his three Origin caps.
Match: Panthers v Rabbitohs
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
"I've definitely looked at it, it would be awesome to get back in that team," he said.
"I don't want to get too distracted with that, my mind and my job is firstly here against the Rabbitohs. If I was to be recalled in that side it would honestly be an awesome feeling and a little reward of how hard I've worked.
"It's been an unreal season so far, I don't think I've been in a better season in my time here. I just want to keep it rolling."
Mansour, who has also represented Lebanon at Test level, said his career was at "rock bottom" after a run of outs with serious injuries over the past few years and says his return to peak form is thanks to the support of those around him.
Keep moving with Mansour
He credited coach Ivan Cleary – the man who handed him his NRL debut in 2012 – and the club support staff for nursing him through a knee reconstruction in 2017 and a career-threatening facial fracture in 2018.
"Last year was pretty tough, I'm not going to lie, I was pretty rock bottom last year," Mansour said.
"I had to always have that belief in myself. People close to me kept supporting me and that was the most important thing, I didn't want to listen to any outside noise and just focus on my job and focus on getting better.
"I've had a pretty bad run the last couple of years. There's been a few times I thought 'when's this bad luck going to stop'.
"It did affect me mentally at one period but I've had a great support system around me that kept picking me up when I was down and I have to rap the club for that as well, they've always looked after me."
It may not be the prime motivator but Mansour can't help but smile when asked about proving doubters wrong.
Panthers v Rabbitohs - Preliminary finals
"Oh, 100 per cent," he said.
"Someone said we're going to win the wooden spoon earlier this year. All these kinds of comments, there's no point listening to them. We're not buying into any of that sort of stuff.
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"A lot of people wrote us off this year without watching us play a game. That's definitely an extra motivator for us. Again, we're not really worried about anyone but each other and going out each week and playing for each other.
"It's awesome to come to work every day. The boys have been unreal, everyone's come in to get better and we've got an amazing group here, everyone's just clicking.
"The main thing is we didn't want to let each other down."
Then there were four …