They may be stepping into the Origin cauldron for the first time, but NSW debutants Josh Jackson and David Klemmer are anything but spring chickens.
With skipper Paul Gallen injured and second-row staple Greg Bird suspended, Blues coach Laurie Daley’s sudden injection of youth came as a surprise to most – including the two NSW rookies themselves.
“Obviously there’s a fair few backrowers running around for NSW, so to get the call was very surprising, Jackson told AAP.
However the Bulldogs pair aren’t exactly strangers to the representative scene.
Just a little over six months ago the duo were a part of the Bulldogs side that went down to South Sydney in an epic grand final.
Not long after that they were part of a Kangaroos side that handed the mantle of the number one rugby league nation in the world to New Zealand after their defeat in the Four Nations final.
And it stuck with Jackson for the whole summer.
“You never like to lose games and it gave me more motivation to train harder during the off-season,” Jackson, 24, said.
“I wanted to be here – not to rectify myself – but I just wanted to do better. It gave me motivation.
“Especially to lose in that one, as big as it was, it’s definitely not a good feeling.”
Klemmer, 21, said his breakthrough tournament was a valuable experience and promised not to be intimidated by Queensland’s champion team.
The Bulldogs prop forms part of a Blues bench that outweighs their opponents by over 40 kilograms.
“It’s a big occasion. It’s a big rivalry that’s been going for years so it’s going to be good fun,” Klemmer said.
“What the boys did last year was unbelievable, and Queensland are definitely going to come out and try and win this season. So the first game we’ve got to get up.
“We’re not going to take a backward step, me and Jacko. We’ll just go out there and do our job and play our normal game.”
Daley said the pair would also have benefitted from the experience gained in last year’s grand final defeat to South Sydney.
Asked what he saw in the two rookies, he said: “Their work rate, and their ability to get things done.
“Both played for Australia, both played in grand finals.
“Both know what the big occasion brings and what’s expected of them.
“They won’t be overawed. They’re not a rookie as such.
“While they’re making their Origin debut, they’ve been involved in high pressure games.
“That’s an advantage for us to bring those guys in because they’ve been exposed to high level football before.”