Roosters and NSW back-rower Boyd Cordner says his club side’s current struggles for form and his own long injury lay-off made it harder to step away for Origin duties.
When Cordner tore a pec in the pre-season he feared a lengthy injury layoff, and while delighted to have earned his first-ever Origin run-on start he admits stepping away from club duties while the team is struggling for wins was a challenge.
Cordner also threw his support behind close mate Mitchell Pearce, who he said has returned from a pre-season stint in rehab a better person.
Of the injury, Cordner spoke in graphic detail of the moment under a bench press of heavy weights he felt the muscle across the left side of his chest tear off "like velcro".
"I went to push up, I was lifting pretty heavy and I went to push up on the last rep and it just ripped, you just felt it. It’s something I’ll never forget. It’s like a massive velcro just peeling off," said Cordner, electing not to reveal exactly how heavy "pretty heavy" was.
"Jake Friend was [spotting me]. I just yelled and actually dropped it on me and then he was sort of in shock as well because he sort of knew what was up. They took the bar off and slid out.
"I knew straight away and that’s the time I was like, it’s pretty bad and knew I was going to be missing a lot of footy."
Origin was the furthest thing on the mind for the Taree junior who had at that point only just re-signed with the club and was two days away from jetting over to England with his teammates for the World Club Series.
"I was really sad to tell you the truth. I had a full pre-season and we were just about to fly over to Dubai and England for that World Club Challenge with the boys and it happened about two days beforehand," he said.
"It was really upsetting; I knew I was going to be missing a lot of footy so all that hard work was sort of undone a bit but I don’t think I was thinking too much about Origin because of how far it was away.
"I was thinking more short term with the Roosters and I didn’t know the extent of the injury so once I knew I could be back in enough time for me to put my best foot forward then I was at ease a bit and then when I started to train and felt normal again then it was a bit easier as well."
It was only after speaking to the surgeons and getting a likely return date that Cordner realised his Origin dream for 2016 wasn’t over.
"Once I was speaking to the surgeons and got surgery and found out I could be back in Round 8 and get five games under my belt before Origin, then was sort of hopeful," he said.
"Then when I got back playing I just wanted to play good for the Roosters and try and get some wins there and try and turn our season around and if I was playing good footy I knew I’d put my best foot forward for Origin."
One big-name absentee from the Blues camp this time around is Cordner’s Roosters teammate Pearce, who only had two games back from an eight-game sanction arising from an Australia Day incident to press his claims for retention.
There have been some suggestions Pearce may have even preferred not to play in order to focus on his club form without the glare of Origin as a distraction so early in his comeback.
"I’m very close mates with Mitchell. I suppose just being a friend [is what he needs from me]; he would do the same for me," Cordner said.
"I just let him know I was there for him whenever he needed my help and I’ll always have his back and I know what sort of bloke he is. It was pretty upsetting the way that it all went down but he’s moved on now and he’s accepted full responsibility for that and I think he’s a better man for it to tell you the truth. The way he’s come back and put it behind him I think it’s a credit to himself."
Cordner wouldn’t comment on whether the break from rep football may be a bonus for Pearce but said the 27-year-old would no doubt be missing everything that goes into an Origin preparation.
"Yeah for sure, this is the pinnacle, it’s unreal. To be in camp with all the boys – It is something pretty special. There’s no doubt, I think he’ll be missing it for sure."
Of his own involvement, Cordner said rather than being a refreshing break from some tough times at club level he felt bad about leaving when the team was struggling.
"To tell you the truth it’s harder stepping away because of the way that we’re going. It hurts me to see where we are on the ladder and I know how hard we’re working at training to turn it around," he said.
"It is probably harder to step away from that because you want to be there to help turn the season around. But it is nice to come into camp and refresh as well."
This article originally featured on NRL.COM