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Back on the straight and Arrow: Grateful Jai eyes redemption

Missing an Origin game because your form is down or your body let you down is hard enough, but missing one because you let your team-mates down by breaking COVID protocols and getting tossed out of camp spells despair on a whole new level.

That’s the scenario that confronted Maroons forward Jai Arrow in 2021 as a lack of judgment and discipline cost him his spot for the final game of the series on the Gold Coast.

Suspended for two games and fined $35,000 for bringing an unregistered guest into camp, Arrow watched on forlornly from home as the Maroons saved face with a 20-18 win after losing the opening two matches.

Arrow picked himself up and got back on track for the Rabbitohs as they made it all the way to the grand final but in the back of his mind the doubts swirled about his future Origin prospects.

Arrow grateful for recall

Had his cards been marked or would new coach Billy Slater wipe the slate clean in 2022?

That question was answered when the 26-year-old was named in Slater’s squad for Game One and finished up as 18th man in Sydney. He may not have been back on the field but he was back in the fold, and in Game Two he finds himself back in the 17 after an injury to Reuben Cotter.

“I don’t want to let what happened last year define me as a person and define me as a player,” said Arrow.

“All I could do was control what I was doing moving forward, that was just do the right things and make sure I prepare myself as best as I can.

Slater talks Origin II selections

“It was hard watching Game Three in isolation from home but I have definitely moved on and Billy reiterated at the start of year that I had not done my dash.

“Playing for Queensland is something I hold close to my heart and now I’m looking forward to pulling on the Maroon jersey again.”

After coming off the bench in all three games in 2020 as the much-maligned Maroons stunned the Blues 2-1, Arrow knows exactly what is expected when Slater injects him into the contest in Perth.

Instant impact. Energy. Kick pressure. Just as he did for Wayne Bennett in that emotional 2020 series and again for the master coach in 2021 as he helped Souths to the decider.

“It’s a role I’m familiar with. I’ve done it in Origin and at club level and I enjoy it,” Arrow said.

Taulagi eager to don Maroons jersey

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity. Unfortunately Reuben got injured so I’m straight into the 17 and I can’t wait.

“I’ve done all I can off the field to make myself a better person. I came into camp for the first game with a big smile on my face and happy to be around the boys. I didn’t kick stones when I was 18th man, I want to do my best for the team.

“It’s such a surreal feeling to put on that Maroon jersey and I’m looking forward to getting back out there and experiencing the Origin arena again.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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