This time last year Robbie Farah was anxiously trying to prove to critics that he was up to State of Origin football.
Next Wednesday, the NSW hooker will lead the Blues into battle at ANZ Stadium if skipper Paul Gallen doesn't recover from a knee injury in time.
Of course, no one expects gladiator Gallen to miss the match, but after being ruled out of Monday night's clash with South Sydney, anything is possible for the Cronulla forward who hasn't played in a month. Either way, Farah is the NSW vice-captain, marking an incredible turnaround for a man who spent four seasons battling rival Michael Ennis for a regular hold on the Blues' No 9 jersey.
Farah proved beyond doubt his Origin credentials last season, particularly with a Herculean performance in game two. This year he's focused on taking his game to the next level as leader.
"It's been a pretty crazy 12 months for me," Farah said. "This time last year I wasn't sure if I was going to be in the team but now obviously I feel comfortable here.
"I feel like I belong and it's a great show of faith by Laurie naming me vice-captain."
Farah will mark up against Queensland skipper Cameron Smith at scrum time. But he says the key to playing Smith is to not focus on Smith. His focus will be more on marshalling the forwards.
NSW matched Queensland in the forwards last season and Farah says the Blues need to once again take it to the star-studded Maroons in the engine room.
"The backs score the points but the games are won in the middle. And for us it's about matching them in the middle," he said. "They've got a great forward pack as well ... So for us we've just got to lay a platform to give our outside backs a good opportunity of some ball in open space."