Tom Learoyd-Lahrs in action at Country training this week. Photo: Sandy Smith - Mudgee Guardian
Sometime last season, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs received a phone call of encouragement from Paul Gallen.
The Canberra Raiders enforcer was likely one of a handful of bookends the NSW skipper contacted, after a lack of form front-rowers forced his move from lock to prop for the Blues.
Learoyd-Lahrs, who played four times for NSW in 2009 and 2010, appreciated the sentiment from the Sharks workhorse, but he didn't really require a kick up the pants.
While pleased with his recent form, Learoyd-Lahrs is adamant he is a long way from becoming the player he knows he can be. That fact, plus proving he deserves his sky blue jersey back, are the incentives Learoyd-Lahrs is using ahead of his third straight appearance for Country this Sunday.
''I spoke to Gal last year before one of our games, and he told me he wants to see me step up,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said.
''It was nice to get the phone call from him, but at the end of the day I know what I need to do.
''Any feedback I can get from the [Country] coaches and at club level I always listen, because I know I haven't fulfilled my potential yet.
''That's the goal isn't it, for any player, you want to be the best you can be.''
The last month in particular, Learoyd-Lahrs has been one of the Raiders' more consistent performers.
Learoyd-Lahrs suffered a foot injury during this year's trials, and missed Canberra's round two win over Gold Coast.
He admitted the fact Gallen was named at prop in Australia's Anzac Test side alongside Raiders teammate David Shillington is spurring him on.
''For me I'm still in the building stages for my season and I'm right where I want to be at the moment, I'm putting some consistent footy together and doing it every week,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said.
''I think that [a Kangaroos recall] is a realistic goal for me at the end of the season, and it definitely is motivation.
''But there's things I want to achieve for the Raiders and this Country game, and hopefully a Blues jersey before that.''
Learoyd-Lahrs has been working feverishly with Canberra's coaching staff in a bid to improve the finer details of his game.
The 26-year-old plans to meet with Country coach Laurie Daley and NSW mentor Ricky Stuart this week to gauge what they are looking for from him at Mudgee.
Learoyd-Lahrs was one of the standouts in last year's City-Country fixture, but his Origin hopes were dashed after he fractured his cheekbone during the match.
''I'll sit down with them and have a yarn about what they expect from me, and what I need to do to push my case,'' Learoyd-Lahrs said.
''I just want to be a more well-rounded player in both attack and defence, the subtle things are the difference between the good players and the great players. I know there's still a hell of a lot of improvement in me, it's just a matter of working hard and finding that improvement.''