St George-Illawarra hooker Mitch Rein was born and bred in NSW but he wasn’t even on the selectors’ map last year.
Rein was overlooked for a Blues jumper in the deciding game of last year’s State of Origin series, when vice-captain Robbie Farah was battling a hand injury and second option Michael Ennis faced judiciary charges early in the week.
It might have been all a ruse, but the state’s hooking stocks were so thin that even Melbourne’s back-up rake, Ryan Hinchcliffe, was drafted into the NSW camp.
And while Rein was disappointed not to even get a call from coach Laurie Daley, the omission is motivation alone for a strong start to the year and at least put him name, or his birthplace, on the map.
“If anything, I just want to put my hand up to let them know I’m here,” Rein joked to AAP.
“I know I’m capable. I’ve got a lot of faith in my ability. I haven’t even spoken to Laurie, but the only thing I can worry about is performing week to week for my club and putting myself in that position.”
First, the 25-year-old Rein will have to stave off competition for his own spot at the Dragons, with former Canberra utility Josh McCrone and Warriors hooker Siliva Havili signed up to boost depth.
Rein averaged just under an hour a game in 2015 and was again expected to share hooking duties in 2016, but welcomed the challenge of being pushed for minutes in the reduced interchange era.
“I’ve always had to compete for my spot, but there’s a few more options there this year,” Rein said.
“Due to a few injuries and lack of depth last year, it really took its toll and we went on a bit of a losing streak.
“This year, we’ve got a lot more depth all over the park in every position. We’ll be prepared if we face any injuries. If we can be consistent, we’ll be able to step it up another notch.”
The Dragons close out their pre-season with trials against the Warriors and Queensland Cup side Central Coast Capras over the next fortnight before opening the season on March 7 against Melbourne.