Cronulla second-rower Wade Graham feels his combination with James Maloney is finally hitting its straps and it could be enough to finally earn him that NSW jumper.
Graham admits it's been a testing couple of weeks after fulfilling his boyhood dream when he was named in the Blues squad for State of Origin II, only to have it ripped from under him because of a high tackle suspension.
He admitted to going through a dark spot which he described as the toughest period of his career.
"It was so tough for me, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, to watch a game you could have been a part of and were so close to being a part of," Graham said.
"It's something I dreamed of doing since I was a kid and to actually get there and to achieve it and then to lose it due to circumstances that you can't do anything about, it was obviously tough.
"But it is what it is."
The heartache of having to watch from the sidelines as Queensland sealed victory would have been compounded by his knowledge that his replacement Tyson Frizell was the best on field for NSW and looks certain to retain his spot.
However, after yet another standout effort for the Sharks in their record-setting 34-24 win over Parramatta on Saturday, Graham too has a strong claim for a spot in Laurie Daley's squad.
What will only strengthen his case is his partnership on the Sharks' left side with NSW playmaker James Maloney which is going from strength to strength.
After conceding an early 18-0 lead, it was the Sharks' left edge which sparked their revival with Graham looking dangerous every time he ran the ball.
"It's taken a while for (his partnership with Maloney) to get going this year," Graham said.
"Working with Jimmy a lot, he's a dominant playmaker and we both play what we see, we're ad-lib players, we play up on the ball, we play flat at the defence, and sometimes he sees something different that I see and it's taken a while to get that communication right.
"To get that combination for him to sometimes pull back and let me play and when for me to pull back and let him play.
"It's a work in progress and we've got a lot of improvement in us and we'll be working hard to get better."