With one more audition before Laurie Daley names his New South Wales team for Origin I in Sydney on June 1 former Maroons prop David Shillington says Titans teammate Ryan James has the 'engine' to succeed at the highest level.
Shillington and James were integral in stopping the momentum of the big Roosters forwards on Monday night and face another sizeable assignment on Sunday with a Panthers pack boasting plenty of big blokes of their own.
Having figured in all 10 games for the Titans this season James is averaging more than 57 per minutes per game and churning out big numbers in both attack and defence.
Against the Roosters he had 21 carries for 160 metres and 32 tackles and Shillington said it is those types of numbers that make James a leading Origin candidate.
"I haven't thought about the Blues team so it's hard to think about who's playing good and who isn't but one of the keys to playing good at Origin level is to have a big engine," said Shillington, who played eight Origins for Queensland, his last in 2013.
"He fits the bill in that respect for sure.
"The thing with Ryan James is that he's a pretty big fella – I think he's 110 or 112 kilos – but it feels like he could probably play 80 minutes every week.
"He's got a great engine on him, he works hard for his teammates, always pushing forward on the inside and trying to get us going forward in attack too."
The most penalised player in the NRL last season, James started the year in a much more disciplined fashion but conceded three against the Storm in Round 9 and now has a tally of 10 through 10 games.
On the positive side of the ledger he ranks 14th for tackles, seventh for hit-ups and fourth for decoy runs in the NRL this season and at 24 years of age is a future leader of the club according to Shillington.
"He's been really impressive and I think he's a bit of a captain in the making here," said Shillington.
"He's still only quite young but it feels like he's one of the senior players, one of the older guys around the place.
"He's been great to play alongside and I think he's definitely a future leader of the club."
Admitting to be shocked to be axed from the team for the game against the Storm, Shillington produced one of his better games of the season against the Roosters but said the challenge for the Gold Coast forward pack is to back it up on Sunday.
The men in the middle focused their energies on shutting down the go-forward of the Roosters and said their pre-match plan went a long way to giving their halves the platform they needed to engineer the win.
"They've got pretty big forwards – Dylan Napa, Kane Evans, Sam Moa, [Jared Waerea] Hargreaves – they don't come too much bigger than those blokes but we did know that they were going to run one-out," Shillington said.
"They did the odd tip-on but they were basically getting the ball one off the ruck and trying to run through us.
"We knew that was coming at us and we talked about getting dual contact on them and stopping their momentum. I thought we did that pretty well.
"Now we've got to be consistent because Penrith have got the same sort of players that we need to be tough on."
This article first appeared on NRL.com