Worry About Origin At Your Own Peril: Soward
The message from Penrith playmaker Jamie Soward is clear; worry about State of Origin selection and you won't be picked for the Panthers.
The Panthers could be one of the best represented clubs in this year's series with as many as five players tipped to be on New South Wales Blues coach Laurie Daley's radar.
Matt Moylan, Bryce Cartwright and Josh Mansour are all in line to make their debuts in Game One, while Trent Merrin is in the mix to add to his 13 appearances. Tyrone Peachey's name has also been mentioned after a stellar showing in the County-City clash earlier this month.
While their teammates would love to see them don the sky blue jersey, members of the senior playing group have warned the younger Panthers to forget about Origin selection until the full-time whistle sounds this weekend.
Panthers five-eighth and former NSW Blues No.6 Jamie Soward didn't mince his words when he said Origin talk was taboo in the lead-up to their clash with the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday afternoon.
He said anyone thinking about it should exclude themselves from the upcoming game as they chase three straight wins for the first time in 2016.
"No one in our team or squad has talked about that," an impassioned Soward said on Thursday morning.
"We're not interested in it at all as far as I'm concerned. If you're interested in it [then] put your hand up and don't play on Sunday.
"As far as I'm concerned if you're thinking about that before Sunday then let coach know and we'll make sure we get someone else in there that wants to do the job.
"Your first priority is the Panthers. They pay the bills."
Panthers hooker James Segeyaro said he was relieved to be a Queenslander at this time of the year as it meant less speculation and attention from the media.
The 25-year-old said Penrith's young brigade – including the heavily-touted Bryce Cartwright - would let their football do the talking at Pepper Stadium this weekend.
"We're all concentrating about this Sunday," Segeyaro said.
"You (the media) tend to put a lot of pressure on blokes. Bryce will be ready when Bryce is ready. His performances will show that this Sunday.
"I think the boys have matured a long way since they first started [playing] first grade. At the end of the day all we want to do is to get the two points on Sunday. That's all we're focussing about. The rest is up to them what they do outside this scene."
The ever-improving Leilani Latu was confident the Origin hopefuls would be solely focussed on the upcoming Round 11 clash thanks to the work done by Panthers coach Anthony Griffin.
"I think their mindset at this time would be to see what they can do for their club team, which is Penrith," the City Origin representative said.
"For them to make that team would be an honour for them and it would be an awesome experience for them, but first and foremost it'll be what they can do for this team – for Penrith – and how we can get the win against this Titans this week.
"I think our coach has done a terrific job in eliminating any possible distractions that may come across, whether that be Origin or anything like that.
"He's just laid the law down and sort of said 'let's keep our minds focussed, let's stay in one direction' and that's putting our best foot forward against the Titans this week."
Panthers veteran Jeremy Latimore echoed his teammates' sentiments.
"Obviously it seems like a cliché but they need to worry about what they're doing for the club team," he said.
"If they play well for us they're obviously going to take care of getting picked for NSW. Obviously it'd be exciting hearing your name in the paper that you might be making a rep team, but so far this year they've not worried about that."
This article first appeared on NRL.com