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He was a late Origin bolter last year, but the faith shown by coach Laurie Daley has already lifted Matt Moylan to a new level.

When Moylan was handed the Penrith Panthers captaincy just 13 months ago, few people backing the VB Blues had him in their side to take on Queensland. Some irresistible form delivered him the no.1 jersey for Game One, where he announced himself as a long-term representative star. Following it up with a man-of-the-match performance in his international debut, the 25-year-old knows he can return to arena this year.

“Obviously I want to be back there and playing rep footy after getting a taste of it last year,” Moylan tells, “but that all comes off hard work here [at Penrith] and finding that consistency.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but hopefully.”

With 71 NRL games under his belt - all of them at fullback - Moylan is undoubtedly the most hyped five-eighth to never regularly play in the position. His sole appearance in the no.6 jersey came with a victory in the 2016 Origin finale, leaving the Blacktown product with no doubts about his ability to perform in the halves.

“I think having that taste there last year in Game Three was unreal and I took a fair bit of confidence out of that,” Moylan says. “I just felt really comfortable in that role so if it was to work out that way it wouldn’t faze me at all.

“I’ve got a role to do here at Penrith and that’s all I’m focusing on at the moment. If I’m playing good enough footy here, then that sort of stuff might take care of itself.”

The Panthers, blessed with depth in all positions this year, travel to Kogarah to take on the Dragons in their opening NRL clash on Saturday. Penrith’s Intrust Super Premiership NSW side, to face Illawarra in the televised match at 2:10pm, will also be brimming with talented stars graduating from a successful Holden Cup outfit, which Moylan explains is only a good thing for the club as a whole.

“We’ve had quite a few blokes that have come up and done the pre-season and some that have debuted over the last couple of years,” Moylan says. “It’s definitely good that we’ve got those juniors coming through to add to the depth.

“We’ve brought some experienced players in as well, in ‘Jimmy’ [James Tamou], Tim Browne and Mitch Rein so they’re definitely going to help.”

Heavily favoured to challenge for the NRL title, the Panthers captain has a huge role to play in converting expectation to reality this year. If he can do that, Moylan will not give up his hard-earned VB Blues jersey without a fight.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales 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.