Sharks prop Matt Prior says he is flattered by comments from club coach Shane Flanagan linking him to Paul Gallen's now vacant Blues jersey and believes he is physically and mentally ready for the challenge that State of Origin provides.
Speaking to media ahead of his side's win over the Eels in Round 4, Flanagan dubbed Prior the "form front-rower at the end of last year" and backed him to make his Blues debut in the coming months.
"I reckon Matt Prior can play Origin this year; he's not out of that league," Flanagan said.
"I think his form in the past six to eight months has been great and he was probably the form front-rower at the end of last year. If he's not an Origin player then he's very, very close."
The 29-year-old was a part of Ricky Stuart's "Blues in waiting" squad in 2011 and has watched on as emerging players Boyd Cordner, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Andrew Fifita and more have graduated into State of Origin regulars.
Prior has had a solid start to the Telstra Premiership season, with his numbers slightly down on what he produced during Cronulla's run to grand final glory in 2016.
The two-time premiership winner said he was humbled by Flanagan's comments but revealed he hadn't spoken to Blues coach Laurie Daley about what he needed to do to make the squad.
"I heard that and that was a big rap from Flanno. Something I'd love to do is play Origin, but whether I do or not is another thing. We'll just have to see how it pans out," Prior said on Tuesday morning.
"I feel like I'm physically and mentally ready to play Origin and that's a challenge I'd definitely like to take.
"My form hasn't been too bad. I just keep trying to improve each week and get better.
"I haven't spoken to Laurie or anything like that."
Prior said his main focus was on playing good footy for the Sharks, with his next assignment a showdown with the Newcastle Knights on Saturday afternoon.
It will be an interesting situation for Prior given the Knights had been chasing him before he decided to ink a new three-year deal with the Sharks.
"I did speak with a few people at the Knights but I was happy to stay at the Sharks and I'm glad I'm staying here for the next couple of years," he revealed.
"I feel like everything you need to be successful is here already so there's no need to go anywhere else. I feel like the culture is good and everything that you want in a club is already here."
This article first appeared on NRL.com