Titans captain Ryan James will be channeling Paul Vaughan as he prepares to get one over the man who last year stole his debut NSW Blues jersey from under his nose like a thief in the night.
Knights prop David Klemmer is on his way to CBUS Super Stadium on Sunday. It was Klemmer who edged out the Gold Coast prop last year for a spot in the NSW side in game one of the State of Origin series after having a blinder with his former club Canterbury against the Wests Tigers.
James had been told to prepare to fly into Blues camp just hours earlier, but Klemmer’s masterclass tipped him across the line.
James was close again to a NSW debut in game two when Reagan Campbell-Gillard broke his jaw at training, but Cronulla prop Matt Prior was preferred.
While the 27-year-old said he enjoyed being in camp with the Blues, he is not satisfied with just that. A strong display against Klemmer and company will only enhance his representative claims.
"I still have got the desire to chuck on a Blues jersey and play in that arena," James said.
"Klemmer is a great player, an Origin forward and Australian forward. They are the challenges you love to come up against and we’ll be trying to get one over the Knights.
"I was just happy to be in around the [NSW] squad but to be a part of it makes you more hungry because you are nearly there – you can taste it but you are not actually eating it. You are close enough, but close enough is not good enough."
James has been watching NSW and Dragons prop Paul Vaughan closely this year and said he had set the bar high for prospective Blues props.
Vaughan has eight Dally M points, the most of any forward on the points ladder for the prestigious award. He has been in barnstorming form and has averaged 168.5 metres so far through five rounds. James said his own display in the 28-24 win over Penrith was "one of the better ones I’ve had this year" where his 127m and 43 tackles showcased his talents.
"Vaughany has been great. Obviously coming off the [ankle] injury he had last year he’s wanted to start the year well,” James said.
"I am good mates with Vaughany and he has definitely set the level, and that is the level you need to bring yourself to."
While the Titans still have a lot of improvement in them, James said the win over the Panthers has transformed the mood at Titans HQ.
"You come to training on Monday [after a loss] and you know the video [session] is not going to be good but this week you could feel the change where everyone was happy," James said.
"Even though we didn't do everything well, we did enough to win. You can’t throw a performance like that up against a team like Melbourne who will definitely attack your flaws. We know we’ve got a long way to go but we are happy for that win because you don’t want to start a season 0-5.
"It is a relief. It was just good to win a game of footy at home and have your home crowd chanting for you. It is just what we needed after lapses and not playing the brand of footy that we wanted to.
"I still think we didn’t do it in stages of that game, but in other stages we did. Tyrone Roberts was phenomenal for us. He kicked us to that win and our bench was tremendous and came on and really changed the game for us. For Jai Whitbread to come on after playing one game of NRL previously and do what he did was pretty special."