NSW Blues coach Laurie Daley has shown Canberra Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin is firmly in the mix for a State of Origin debut this year after he was included in a 17-man NSW Emerging squad on Wednesday.
Considered desperately unlucky not to be given at least a bench spot in Origin III last year, Austin was named in a squad also featuring Raiders teammate Jack Wighton.
While Wighton has been a mainstay of the program for a few years it is the first time Austin has been included in the squad, which will embark on a one-day camp in Sydney on Saturday.
Origin was far from Austin's agenda last year as he eased into his first season with the Raiders, also his first full campaign in the No.6 jersey.
His form saw him named the Dally M five-eighth of the year and he admitted in November a Blues jumper is his goal after breaking onto the representative scene with three tries for City against Country.
"Everyone says they want to play Origin, but you know when you're close enough to have it as a realistic goal," Austin said.
"It will definitely be one of mine, and everything that happened last year means nothing now.
"The best thing is my game isn't quite where I want it to be yet. If I can really strengthen my passing and kicking game, I think I can go to the next level."
Wighton has played every position in the back line and his versatility could come in handy.
Young prop Paul Vaughan, included in the squad last year, was the unluckiest Raider to miss out after another strong season last year which resulted in Country selection.
Daley said the squad gives players a firsthand look at what to expect should they be selected for Origin.
"These guys are players who are obviously very talented and we believe they have the potential to be Origin players," Daley said.
"If they make the side it helps them walk into an environment they are somewhat familiar with, so when they arrive in camp they know what we do and how we go about it."
Raiders winger Edrick Lee was also named in Queensland's Emerging squad on Tuesday.