By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
St George Illawarra forward Tyson Frizell may be the freshest player in the annual City v Country clash on Sunday, with the Country Origin debutant returning from a two-match suspension – something he feared may have cost him his spot.
Fortunate not to be handed a bigger suspension, Frizell came under the spotlight of the NRL's Match Review Committee following his high shot on Tim Browne in Round 6 which left the Bulldogs forward heavily concussed and the game halted for almost 10 minutes.
While making the most of his Country opportunity is his primary focus, in the back of his mind he's out to prove to others that unfortunate hits like the one he put on Browne aren't a part of his game.
"I wasn't too sure how [my suspension] was going to pan out. It was in the back of mind that it may affect my chances but I was hoping the footy I had played before that was good enough to make the team," Frizell told NRL.com.
"It wasn't timely whatsoever and the two weeks I missed are certainly the two you want to be playing to stake your claim. I pretty much have a clean-sheet record when it comes to those things. It was just an unfortunate situation which I found myself in.
"It was a complete accident and the outcome of it was probably the reason I copped a two-match ban. It's all past me now though and I'm coming in fresh so I'm heading into this game feeling ready to go."
While he has represented Wales at Test level five times, Frizell's selection sees him tap into his New South Wales and Australian allegiances for the first time.
Having played for the Welsh at the 2011 Four Nations and the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Frizell believes his time spent in a camp not dissimilar to the Country one he entered on Monday can only be beneficial.
Touted as a potential Origin bolter, Frizell is looking to build on his outstanding performances for the Dragons this season where he has averaged 102.5 metres and 39.7 tackles.
"I guess when you come into a representative camp it's a different kind of environment in terms of seeing unique faces. So my experience with Wales can only help my cause," he said.
"I'm not new to these things and I don't find it difficult to gel with players but it'll be interesting to meet some of the blokes I've never met before and try and strike up a close bond before we play on the weekend.
"I think whenever you put on a representative jumper you always want to perform well. I just want to, come Sunday, put in my best performance possible. I'll be more than happy to put my hand up for an Origin jersey if it comes around but that's something I'll look towards down the track."
Having check off one of his goals of the season by earning a Country Origin jumper, after a foot injury had ended his hopes of a potential Country debut last season, Frizell will be joined in the forward pack by fellow Dragons back-rower Joel Thompson and hooker Mitch Rein.
"It's always exciting to earn your first representative jumper. It's why you play consistent footy at club level to earn call-ups to teams like this. It's something I don't think I was expecting but something I was definitely hoping for," he said.
"It was one of my goals to make this side and it's definitely awesome to see Mitch [Rein] and my partner Joel [Thompson] there too. I know how hard they have worked to make it where they have so it's nice to see those guys here."