Titan made for Origin intensity
MASTER mentor Greg Lenton has nurtured the careers of a generation of NRL stars.
Benji Marshall, Isaac Liu, Corey Norman, Greg Eastwood, Te Maire Martin - all are graduates of the famed Keebra Park program created by Lenton.
But of the hundreds of players he has seen, Jai Arrow is the man Lenton rates as best suited for State of Origin football.
"If ever I had to pick a player that was made for State of Origin, out of everyone I had, it would be him," Lenton said.
"He is just built for it in every way. He will not let anybody down in that arena."
There are plenty of physical attributes and testing benchmarks that can determine whether a player will be successful in the NRL. But Origin is a different beast.
Lenton's only concern about Arrow when he was younger was whether the slight frame he possessed as a schoolboy could hold up to the rigours of the NRL.
But he never had a doubt about his mind and the character that would be tested in the Origin arena.
"Anybody as far as that senior, intense football goes, like State of Origin, would love to have him," Lenton said.
"He will be the guy that will find his way to grab that jersey by the fingernail and pull down the guy that normally would have scored a try.
"If you ever needed somebody there to make that crucial tackle, it was always Jai.
"I remember once - and I can't remember what game it was but it was a big game - and something had gone wrong and we were losing.
"People dropped their heads a bit. But right up to the last second, I remember him chasing someone for about 30 metres and pulling him down when most people knew the game was over.
"That to me summed up Jai.
We can all set the world on fire when everything's going our way but he was a kid that when things were tough and against him, he would produce."
It's what Arrow expects of himself tonight.
"That's my game; to never give up and do all the little things that no one wants to do," he said.
"Origin is all about mental toughness and I consider myself a mentally tough guy.
"I don't know if I'm suited for it yet, I haven't been out there.
"But come Wednesday night, hopefully I'm prepared to go and can do a good job for the boys."
He certainly won't die wondering.
With Cowboys veteran Matt Scott in the wings waiting for a chance to resurrect his career, Arrow needs a strong performance in the opener to seal his place for the rest of the series.
And he hopes to channel the physical and aggressive spirit of his Origin hero, Gorden Tallis, to do it.
"I don't want to come on and just flatline it, I want to come on and make a difference and hopefully change the game," Arrow said.
He'll get his chance against a young Blues pack looking to inflict pain on their opponents, with debutant Regan Campbell-Gillard declaring: "I can't wait to get out there and kill some people."
"Bring it on, I can't wait," Arrow said. "(Taking on their big pack) is what I'm here for and that's what I want to do. (I want to take on) all of them really. I wouldn't say there's one, the whole 17 ... if I can do a job on all 17 of them that would be good."
If it was possible to get Arrow any more primed for his debut, it happened last week when Tallis entered camp to address the team.
"I just love how aggressive he was and how passionate he was," Arrow said.
"I love passionate players. I'm passionate about the game as well and I try to be an aggressive player to an extent.
"But I just love the way he played, he was just so tough and physical and I loved it."
It's a Blue though that most reminds Lenton of Arrow.
While running a national schoolboys championship at Tweed Heads many years ago, Lenton and fellow selectors were impressed by a player who stood out despite his ACT team being soundly beaten every game.
"We kept giving this kid man of the match. His name was Bradley Clyde," Lenton said.