THE way Todd Carney speaks, it seems his elevation to a NSW jumper is being guided as much by destiny as anything else. ''I just feel that my time has come,'' Carney said yesterday.
Destiny has collided with a particularly golden patch of form for Carney, as well as his new club Cronulla. With that in mind, it appears certain that, barring disaster, Carney will take the five-eighth spot for NSW in State of Origin I in Melbourne on May 23. And he says he is ready.
What he said yesterday was only repeating what he had told Blues coach Ricky Stuart prior to the City-Country, a match in which the 25-year-old excelled.
''We spoke about it last year, when we went into camp [for the players Stuart saw as the core group],'' Carney said. ''Obviously, the year didn't go to how I'd like it. But when I chatted to him the other week before the City-Country, I said I want the job. But for me, it's easy to say - there are 10 or 12 other blokes that want that job. We've all just got to continue to keep putting our best foot forward.
''As I've always said, I want to keep getting better for the Sharks, and I feel I've done that the last few weeks. Hopefully I get that opportunity. If I don't, I'll keep working hard to get that jumper one day.
''But I want to put my hand up. Ricky knows that. I've said I wanted to be a part of it from when I was a kid. Obviously I probably wasn't ready. I feel that I am ready now.
''It's up to me to just continue to play good.''
In a peculiar twist, Carney said he had been spurred on this season by comments from Wally Lewis, Queensland's greatest five-eighth, who had
said that the Sharks star was mentally tough enough for Origin.
''That was a big shock, to hear that. It did hit home,'' Carney said. ''I've never experienced the Origin arena. For him to say that, it's a big bonus for me.''
Carney's form has been improving through the season, culminating in a classy display in the 44-22 win over Canberra, one of his former clubs, last Sunday. Carney had been given a lifeline by the Sharks after parting ways with the Sydney Roosters last year. It had been a disappointing end to a stint at the club that had produced some remarkable highs. In 2010, Carney led the squad to a grand final, and represented Australia in the Four Nations tournament at the end of the year.
Carney, though, said he was more prepared for Origin now than he would have been in 2010.
''I feel mentally right to go,'' he said. ''A few years ago, I probably wasn't. I'm ready to put my hand up to have a go. If I do get that opportunity, I will give it all I've got.
''Everyone is fighting for that position. It doesn't matter who you are or where you have been, beating Queensland will be a tough ask but it's something I've always wanted to do.''
Carney also said he was fitter and stronger than he had ever been. ''I feel I can handle it [State of Origin] better,'' Carney said. ''I'm going good at the moment - it's all positive.
''Origin has been a goal of mine since I was a kid, since I started playing at the Raiders. If I do get that opportunity, I want to stay there. I want to be an Origin player.''
Even his words yesterday are representative of a player who is readier than he has ever been. That fact he has come out so strongly to state his case will surely be seen as a positive by Stuart. ''I don't want to come out and say that I'm not ready,'' Carney said. ''I feel that I am.''