It’s just the type of boost Newcastle Knights' aspiring Origin representatives Dane Gagai and Korbin Sims appreciate as the 2015 season looms.
The pair has returned from the Queensland Emerging Maroons camp in Brisbane over the weekend, an experience aimed to prepare promising players for potential Origin selection in 2015.
Sims explained the camp involved team building exercises that saw the squad spend time at the Enoggera Army Barracks to undergo a series of challenging obstacle courses and complex team-based scenarios like carrying teammates strapped to spinal boards above and through water.
“It was about trying to get through as safely as you could but also about using all your upper body strength, which was pretty hard,” Sims said.
For Gagai, who faces a real chance of making his Origin debut in 2015, the camp was about becoming familiar with the Maroons Origin culture.
“It was about getting us boys together while giving us a bit of insight into what they expect from us, so if we do hopefully get the call up, we’re not going in blind and know what to expect and feel a bit more comfortable,” Gagai said.
Being identified as an Emerging Maroon for the second year in a row provides timely motivation and drive to impress from the outset of the 2015 season for 23-year-old Sims.
“Coming into the season it’s going to be in the back of my mind about playing well to try and get selected in the Maroons side, but that was what this weekend was all about,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have gone up there if the coaches didn’t think we were close to getting a crack at either just having training with the Maroons side, or making a debut.
“My main focus this year is to play really well for the Knights and try to give the fans what they want, start the year really well and get a few wins under our belt.
“If I’m playing good football then obviously I’d take any opportunity that came my way.”
The pair weren’t the only ones to fly the red and blue flag in in Queensland over the weekend with the Clubs’ Director of Football Michael Hagan on deck to support the Origin hopefuls.
“He’s been in the Queensland system for a long time now and it’s always good to have him up there especially because he’s part of the Newcastle club,” Sims said.
“He’s a really nice guy and really easy to talk to. He ran a component of our skills session on the Saturday afternoon, which was good.
“Just to have him there to talk footy with and bounce ideas off was a really good boost for me.”
Gagai also appreciates the link the Queensland mentor has with the Knights and expects it to improve his game in 2015.
“It was a plus having him there, he’s obviously got a lot of experience, it’s always good having him at training,” he added.
“Whenever he pulls you aside and gives you a bit of advice, you listen to what he has to say, because he’s at one of the highest level you can be in the Queensland coaching staff.”