Never a good spectator at the best of times, Reed Mahoney admits his month-long sideline stint nursing a shoulder complaint was particularly cruel as he watched his Queensland State of Origin dream slip away.
But the Parramatta rake has not given up on reclaiming the Maroons No.9 jersey in 2022 - and believes an NRL premiership tilt with the Eels would be the perfect springboard.
Mahoney took the first confident step when he made a triumphant return from injury in the Eels' 26-8 NRL thumping of the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night, ending a frustrating wait for the 23-year-old.
"I hate sitting on the sidelines. I’ve been on the edge of my seat watching the boys, and yelling and screaming," Mahoney said of his recovery.
"I worked really hard to get back ASAP. We had a few byes in there which really helped but it’s great to be back out on the field.”
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Mahoney grabbed a try and set up another, made 40 tackles and finished with a line break and a line-break assist in an impressive NRL comeback against the Titans.
Just 48 hours earlier at the same Gold Coast venue, Queensland hooker Ben Hunt also turned heads by scoring two tries in a 20-18 State of Origin III boilover that sabotaged NSW's hopes of clinching their first whitewash in 21 years.
A proud Maroon, Mahoney was ecstatic with the game three result.
But it was also bittersweet knowing how close he had come to wearing the Maroons No.9 jersey this year.
Mahoney plays short to Lane
Mahoney was named in the original Maroons game one squad this year and became Harry Grant's understudy.
However, he was robbed of the chance to make his Origin debut when the Melbourne rake succumbed to a hamstring complaint by a shoulder injury he suffered playing for the Eels in round 13.
The Eels dummy-half conceded Hunt was now the Maroons' No.1 hooker option ahead of the 2022 series.
"It is part of footy. I missed out with my shoulder," Mahoney shrugged.
"I think Benny Hunt’s performance was great and he is at the top of the pecking order to be honest.
"But it is any kid’s dream to be there. I got a taste of it in Origin I and got to be (named) in the team.
"Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play because of my injury but it just makes me more hungry.
"But Origin is done now and I guess that is next year's goal.
"I am just excited for the back end of the year (with Parramatta)."
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Mahoney hopes his desire to break back into the Maroons squad helps spark a premiership run by Parramatta.
The Eels are ideally placed for a title push, staying on track for a top-four finish with their fourth win in five games after a first-half points rush against the Titans.
Parramatta made Gold Coast pay after Titans co-captain Kevin Proctor was sin-binned, scoring three tries in five minutes to race to a 20-0 halftime lead.
It was impressive stuff just 48 hours after relocating with the rest of the NRL's interstate teams to a Queensland biosecurity bubble to escape the Greater Sydney COVID-19 outbreak.
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Mahoney said the eight-game run home in a bubble could "make or break" a team's finals hopes.
And he firmly believed the Eels would thrive and end their 35-year title drought.
"As soon as we flew up here we all discussed the fact that we are here for one thing and that is to win the comp - that is as simple as it is," Mahoney said.
"It is about the staff and everyone helping each other out.
"A heap of boys are going to be away from their families so it is about getting around each other.
"I am all in and I know everyone else is here to win the comp."