Dragons lock Jack de Belin is hoping his revamped and more attacking style plus his club's improved form combine to boost his hopes of a State of Origin debut off the back of what he hopes will be a strong performance for Country Origin in Mudgee on Sunday.
The hard-working lock is on record – plenty of times – as saying he thinks his playing style is suited to the rep arena but after a strong 2016 has upped the ante this year.
His average metres last year – 117 per game – are currently up at 131 per game. After producing 15 offloads in 21 game last year he has already easily surpassed that with 20 in just nine games this year. He has already doubled last year's try tally of one while markedly increasing his tackle busts from 1.4 per game to 2.6 per game after nine matches this year.
Speaking to NRL.com after being unveiled with his Country Origin teammates ahead of his second Country Origin jersey, de Belin doubled down on his determination to achieve Blues honours.
"I've said it for a while, I feel like my game definitely translates to the rep arena," he said.
Of his dramatically improved attacking game, he added: "every year you try and increase certain aspects of your game and get more confident to be able to do that.
"Every year I've developed more confidence and having a coach that allows you to play a bit more free-spirited which is the way I like to play definitely helps as well. I suppose it's been building for a couple of years now, I've always been able to do it, it's more a matter of getting out there and doing it at this stage."
It's not just de Belin's form that has improved; the Dragons themselves after being the second-worst attacking team of 2016 and missing the finals have started 2017 with a bang and are sitting on the most points scored – 225 – of any club after nine games. The second-placed Red V also have the best for-and-against of any team at this stage.
De Belin hopes that improved overall club performance will help the likes of himself and fellow Country reps Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims get noticed.
"I think it helps a lot, you notice how much more media exposure and coverage you get when you're doing well," he said.
"It's great to be able to represent Country with a few fellow Dragons and even [Dragons hooker] Cam McInnes in the City side. Credit goes to the boys for helping me get selected in this side."
The Dragons pack has clicked as a unit, according to de Belin, which is evidenced by the fact they love playing for one another and are familiar with each others' games and play styles.
"We've all played with 'Vaughany' (2017 recruit Paul Vaugan) and Tariq (2016 mid-season recruit Tariq Sims) a lot now so I know what their games are like and what they're about and what suits them," he said.
"Combinations are a big part of rugby league so when you play with someone and know their traits it helps a lot.
"When you're playing with people you know well you get a lot of confidence from that and play a bit more free-flowing. I'd love to see any Dragons player in the State of Origin side."
Despite a strong performance in his Country debut last year – scoring a powerful try despite the team going down 44-30 – de Belin said he had no idea where he sat in Blues coach Laurie Daley's plans.
"I'd have thought last year I would have gone pretty close after a good performance for Country but you never know," he said.
"You never know what the coaches are thinking or how they'll be picking their side, if it's based on size or impact off the bench. There are a lot of good players putting their hands up so that's all I can do and hopefully keep playing good footy and that will take care of itself."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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