City Origin prop James Tamou lodged himself a monster Origin audition two weeks out from Laurie Daley naming his Origin I team, with City coach Brad Fittler full of praise for the Penrith prop's match-winning effort.
Tamou played all but 12 minutes of the final every City-Country game, won 20-10 by City, running a mammoth 209 metres with 27 tackles, three offloads and a try.
Fittler said the performances of Tamou and fellow veteran prop Paul Gallen paved the way for the win and allowed Fittler to pick some less experienced forwards behind the experienced duo.
Tamou's name was the first put forward by Fittler when asked by the game who had put their hands up for Origin I jerseys.
"I keep going back to the conversation I had with 'Gus' [Penrith head of football Phil Gould] on Sunday when I was struggling to make a footy team but as soon as I knew I had 'Gal' and James Tamou I knew James Tamou would be ready to go," Fittler said.
Tamou had a point to prove and did so following some up-and-down club form so far this year, Fittler added.
"You could tell from the start of the week he thought it was a good opportunity to turn things around," he said.
"Sometimes when you're at your club and you're constantly looking at losing games and it's hard not to dwell on negatives, to be able to breathe and press the start button and go again and he did. He's been good all week, he's worked really hard. He was good."
Tamou was always likely to play big minutes, according to Fittler.
"Jimmy was the one I thought we needed to give a chance to prove himself," he said.
Fittler also nominated dangerous winger Josh Addo-Carr and Penrith utility Tyrone Peachey as others who put their hands up for Origin debuts in the not-too-distant future, while he had some healthy praise for Penrith captain and NSW incumbent five-eighth Matt Moylan.
"I thought [Moylan] was great," Fittler said.
"He saved a try early. Tariq Sims, he slowed him down enough to give 'Rossdog' (Nathan Ross) a chance to get him as well. His attack was great.
"Like he did in the last Origin he was a danger every time he touched the ball. He was safe, caught a couple of bombs. I thought he played really well."
This article first appeared on NRL.com