In-form Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds is ready to make his long-awaited State of Origin debut for NSW. Heck, he was ready last year.
Touted as a possible Blues debutant early last season before a knee injury on Good Friday in 2015 wrecked his hopes, it looked like another cruel injury blow was set to ruin the South Sydney junior’s chances again.
But a month back from a broken jaw, Reynolds has gotten better every week and had the ball on a string in a commanding performance against the Dragons where he shook off an early error to torment the Red V with a series of precision long and short kicks, helping create three tries off his boot and generate three repeat sets.
Speaking after the 34-24 win, Reynolds said he’s ready if NSW coach Laurie Daley picks him – even though at that stage he hadn’t heard if he was in the Blues’ plans this year.
Reynolds is aware the buzz that surrounds him as future Origin player has been around a while now but is trying not to read too much into it until something concrete happens.
"The talk's been there for some time. You can't really do too much until you get there. That was always something on my mind, that I wanted to just really focus on Souths and when the opportunity did come, I'd worry about it then," Reynolds said.
Asked if he was ready to make the step up this year, Reynolds said: "I thought I was ready last year. Obviously injuries and whether the selectors wanted to pick me or not, as a player you're always confident in yourself but all things are out of my hands at the moment. If the opportunity did come, I think I'd be ready."
While on paper this year looks Reynolds’ best hope to date, the determined No.7 said he wasn’t looking at it that way.
"I wouldn't say best chance. You're never guaranteed a spot in any team. For me, it's just about growing continually as a person and as a player," he said.
"If I don't make it this year, I'll definitely be trying to make it next year. And if I don't make it the year after, I'll be trying even harder the year after. Nothing's ever set in stone, but if the opportunity would come, I'd be more than happy to grab it."
Potentially counting against Reynolds is Daley’s known preference for picking in-form club combinations and a reluctance to blood playmakers without having a player they’re familiar with alongside them.
In 2013 it was the all-Roosters pairing of Mitch Pearce and James Maloney while in the successful 2014 series it was an all-Dogs pairing in Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson. The 2015 combination of Hodkinson and Pearce weren’t a club combination but both had been there before.
But if Daley does decide to hand Reynolds a debut this year it will have to be alongside someone he’s not used to playing with. If, as expected, in-form Sharks pivot Maloney gets the nod at six, Reynolds was hopeful the pair would complement each other.
"I’ve never really crossed paths other than playing against him, and I played against him for City Country as well – but I love the way Jimmy plays," Reynolds said.
"He's a real competitor and I think he's been in outstanding form this year [as are] Cronulla. They've been outstanding. They're led by some great players in Mick Ennis and Paul Gallen. His form's been good and I'm sure his name will be there soon too."
Asked if the pair would work together, Reynolds added: "You study other players where you can pick up and get better from, but I've never really sat down and thought about if the combination would work out.
"He does play on the left and I do play on the right. We do a mixture all over the field sometimes as well. Maybe if things were to happen, it'd work."
Reynolds could afford a smile when reminded if he does get that cherished Blues jersey he’d probably need to tackle his own in-form club captain Greg Inglis.
"It'd be good, a good challenge. It's one that you dream of," Reynolds laughed.
"You always want to play in the pinnacle of the game and you want to put yourself in that arena, to play against all the best players. If the opportunity did come, I'd be looking forward to it and I'd be very excited."
For his part, Inglis endorsed the halfback’s Origin hopes.
"Over the last month Reyno's really lifted his game without a doubt. I'm no selector and whatever NSW decide to do that's what they've got to decide on but I think Reyno moving forward is very capable of handling the Origin arena and the way he's handled himself over the past month after coming back from his injury, he's definitely one to keep an eye out for," Inglis said.
This story first appeared on NRL.com.