A training session against the NSW Origin Blues has been just one of the highlights of the week for Newcastle Knight Jack Cogger who prepares to represent his state in the Under 20s Origin match on Wednesday evening.
The 18-year-old is poised to play halfback in the curtain-raiser match at ANZ Stadium, alongside his Knights teammate Cory Denniss who has been named in the centres.
In the lead up to the game the team has been in camp where the players are immersed in an environment charged with passion and professionalism as they prepare to represent their state.
“We had an opposed session on Sunday against the Origin team,” Cogger said.
“We trained pretty well against them which was a confidence boost.
“All our sessions have been pretty relaxed and short and sharp."
Cogger said he was excited about the opportunity to test himself against the first grade squad, but remained unfazed after already playing five first grade games for the Knights.
“I had James Maloney and Wade Graham on my side of the field and they are two people I met on my debut,” he said.
“I definitely knew what they were going to throw at me a little bit.”
Wednesday night will not be the first time Cogger has pulled on a Blue jersey either.
The talented Toukley Hawks junior was identified in the NSW Origin pathways system early on in his juniors career and has previously representing in both the U16s and U18s Origin matches.
He believes the fact most of the U20s players have already met during pathways camps will benefit on field chemistry.
“It’s a lot easier when you have people you know,” he said.
“I think the good thing is that we all know each other fairly well before we come to (Origin) camp.
“We do pathways camps now, so by the time the final team is picked, we know everyone already and can just focus on the footy and don’t have to worry too much about getting to know each other.
“There are a lot of players in this team who have trained in NRL squads or have played NRL already, so it’s fairly relaxed and everyone knows their job."
One of the most anticipated moments of the camp happened on the eve of the big game, with the young side presented their playing jerseys by NSW Origin greats.
“We had (Steve) Blocker Roach, David Klemmer and Aaron Woods come in to present our jerseys and they gave a bit of a speech about what it means to play for NSW and playing against Queensland,” he said.
“They spoke about what it means to them and what it hopefully means to us.
“I think playing for your state is also about playing for your family and your friends and I always think it’s a way to repay the people who have you to this spot.
"You have to make sure you play a good, tough game, the do the best things that will get us a win tomorrow night."
Hearing from the senior players has inspired the emerging half to push toward the goal of gaining first grade selection one day.
“Dave Klemmer presented the jerseys and is one of those players who has come through the junior system,” he said.
“He played in the U20s only three or four years ago and has done that pathway so it is obviously there.
“How passionate they are about it makes you want to follow in their footsteps.”
Cogger looks to fall back on those motivating emotions during what he expects will be a grueling match against their Queensland counterparts.
“It’s going to be a tough physical game and think it will be who ever bashes the other one out of it,” he said.
“But at the end of the game we’re all going to be pretty stuffed and I think by the time the crowd is in there we will be able to finish the job off.”
The overall representative experience will be something that he also thinks will improve his game when he comes back to the Knights.
“I’ve learned how important it is to plan for games,” he said.
“I have been in camp since Friday and you have to start to prepare from then.
“It’s something I already knew, but when everyone comes from different clubs, you find out they have their different strategies and things like that which is interesting and you pick up things that will hopefully help me prepare better as an individual.
“I’m normally pretty relaxed, but I think tomorrow I may be a bit more nervous than normal just because of the fact it is a State of Origin and there is only one of them to go out there and give it everything you have got.”