NSW discard Josh Reynolds may be shattered to be sitting out this year's interstate series it hasn't stopped him being ecstatic for Bulldogs teammate Trent Hodkinson, who he gave a pep-talk to prior to the Blues' series-levelling win in Game Two.
Despite playing all three games at five-eighth last year in a drought-breaking series win for Laurie Daley's NSW side, Reynolds' indifferent form combined with a broken arm and suspension coming out of the Country City fixture conspired to see him lose his spot to Roosters playmaker Mitchell Pearce.
Pearce and Hodkinson combined well in Game One until a disorganised final few minutes would ultimately prove costly, but the pair upped the ante in a dominant Game Two win, controlling the game and building on their partnership.
Speaking after he scored a magnificent solo try in an important win for club side Canterbury, Reynolds said while he was disappointed not to be involved in this year's Origin series, he was ecstatic to see close mate Hodkinson shrug off a mountain of criticism to help steer the Blues to 1-all ahead of the July 8 decider at Suncorp Stadium.
"It's so good to see, I was feeling so nervous for him as well because I know what everyone's been saying and whatever," Reynolds said of Hodkinson's Origin II performance.
"I spoke to him before the game and I just said 'not many people get to play at the MCG in front of 90,000.
"I said 'just soak it up' and he sure did. I thought he took control of the game really well and I was just so happy for him and I hope he can have another great game in Game Three."
Reynolds' personal form has spiked since being left out of the Origin I team but says the timing is little more than a coincidence.
"That was just the timing, I didn't have any extra drive or whatever," he said.
"I didn't get selected for the Origin side and it did hurt, I'm not going to lie, but I still had a job to do here at the Bulldogs and that's my main priority anyway. It's good to be enjoying my footy again, I'm having a great time out there with the boys and hopefully we can continue on [the platform from the Penrith win]."
Reynolds is glad to be enjoying his footy again after some tough times earlier in the year.
"I went through a bit of a weird patch there. Suspension and injury and the team and stuff but it's good to be back," he said.
"I'm definitely enjoying my footy and as long as I'm around the boys I'm always having fun anyway."
Despite playing a key role in his side's 24-12 win Reynolds wasn't satisfied with his own game.
"Not really [happy] to tell you the truth. I felt I didn't control the game as much as I should, I felt I didn't really kick too well but that's footy, there's always something to work on and I'll be doing my very best to fix those little things," he said.
With Hodkinson set to be available again for the side's "Back to Belmore" match against the Storm next Monday night, Bulldogs coach Des Hasler again has a welcome headache trying to fit three quality playmakers – Reynolds, Hodkinson and Moses Mbye – into two starting spots and potentially one bench spot.
Last time all three were available (in Round 13), it was Reynolds delegated to the bench, before Hodkinson was subbed off late in the game and Reynolds helped the side storm home against the Dragons.
Reynolds said while he didn't enjoy warming the bench he welcomed the competition for starting spots.
"Whoever's there is expected to do a job and hopefully we're doing that," he said.
"[There is] a bit of healthy competition there, you have to keep on your game because there's someone right there just waiting. That's probably going to bring the best out of all three of us.
"I'm not going to lie, it is hard [being on the bench], all three of us are wanting those spots but that's footy, that's just the way it pans out, I'm sure Dessie's got an idea. We've just got to trust him.
"I know I do and I'm sure the other boys as well. It's just what's best for the team you know, we have to make sure that whatever part we are playing that we do it well."
This article first appeared on NRL.com