By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
Dragons forward Tyson Frizell didn't even get a pre-season in 2016 due to surgery on a bulging disc in his back, which makes his Origin selection just 11 weeks into the competition even more remarkable for the passionate New South Welshman.
Speaking to NRL.com barely 12 hours after a nervous wait by the phone was ended by Dragons coach Paul McGregor with happy news, Frizell couldn't keep the smile off his face.
The Wales international was called up as 18th man by Blues coach Laurie Daley in Game One last year before ongoing back troubles put his interstate hopes on hold.
Frizell was delighted to finally get the call-up – even if he doesn't yet know if he will be one of the unlucky two players to be culled from Daley's 19-man squad before game day.
"Just being a part of the squad is something I'm very very happy about. I'm very excited to be a part of it. Even though there's an extended squad I'm still very happy that I'm a part of it," Frizell enthused at the team launch at The Star on Monday.
The 24-year-old has been an ongoing member of emerging Blues squads and regular extended squad get-togethers throughout 2016 but it wasn't until his phone rang at 8:30 on Sunday night that he found out all the hard work had paid off.
"It was a long day for myself waiting to hear if I did get the opportunity," he laughed.
"Laurie spoke to 'Mary' [Dragons coach Paul McGregor] and then got in contact with our manager and they were the first ones to break it to me. I was trying not to think about it but I had my phone right there hoping for a phone call.
"My partner was sitting next to me, she was probably just as nervous if not more nervous to find out if I was part of the team."
While Frizell will be making his Origin debut if he does get included in the final 17 for June 1, the experience of being around a Blues camp in Coffs Harbour will be a familiar one after Game One in 2015.
"Being a part of the squad last year, even though I was only 18th man, was a good thing to experience what the whole week is about and even though I didn't get the opportunity last year I was still happy that happened to be around the team and know what to expect," Frizell said.
"It's a big week and there's a lot of hype around it and so there should be. All of NSW get behind it, even if you're not a rugby league fan everyone gets behind it and it's a huge privilege to be a part of something like this."
Frizell was reluctant to draw too much attention to his injury history now that he is finally back to something like his best form but admits it was tough starting the year without a pre-season – though he is ecstatic the decision to go under the knife paid off.
"It was kind of a slow start for myself, coming off surgery in the pre-season, I didn't really get a full pre-season – or any at all - under my belt," he said of surgery to fix a bulging disc.
"Coming into Round 1 after probably just two weeks running on the field, I knew it was going to be a bit of a while before I got back to my potential and I was lucky that I was playing OK footy to be selected.
"I had a bulging disc and fragments in my back that were pinching on my nerves so it was something I had to get cleaned out and thank God it helped me and put me right back to 100 per cent as soon as I got it done, I'm glad it all happened like that."
Of a brace around his right thumb, Frizell brushed any talk of a hand injury hurting his chances of suiting up on Wednesday week.
"It's something I need to fix up at the end of the year but it's nothing too worrying leading into the games. It's just something I did a few weeks ago so it's something I'll have to take care of for the rest of the year," he said.
Frizell's selection also drew generous praise from his clubmate and Blues regular Josh Dugan, who seemed even more happy about Frizell's inclusion than his own, if that's possible.
"I am pumped for him. I thought he was unlucky not to get a start last year. He has been playing some great football over the last couple of years as a player and a person, you can tell how happy he is," Dugan said.
"He is a humble bloke but he won't let anyone down. He is made for Origin football. He is tough, he is hard working and he runs hard and he won't let anyone down."