After a season from hell, Panthers winger Josh Mansour hopes this is the year that his dream of playing State of Origin comes true.
Following a breakout 2014, which culminated in Australian representative honours, Mansour was put on ice for most of last season after two major surgeries resulted in just 12 appearances for the Panthers.
Speaking with Extra Time, the 25-year-old said he’s finally in a good place after a rather tough period.
“Last year was a bit of a rollercoaster for me, I didn’t have a pre-season coming off two surgeries, which was pretty mentally and physically tough,” Mansour said.
“Now, I’m happy with where I am and the form I’m in, and I just want to keep it up and enjoy some more wins.”
Mansour’s happiness has seen him in career-best form throughout the opening eight rounds of the season. He admits his game has gone to a new level under new coach Anthony Griffin.
“Hook’s certainly got a different style to Ivan (Cleary),” Mansour said.
“I’ve learnt to be more accountable for my actions, I think the older I get the more mature I am too.”
Mansour’s year will no doubt get even better if he’s selected to play Origin football in less than a month’s time.
While he’s yet to hear from Blues coach Laurie Daley about a potential spot on the wing, the ‘metre-eater’ remains hopeful his dream will finally become a reality.
“It’s on my to-do list, that’ll happen if I’m playing good footy for this club. If the opportunity does come, I’ll be honoured and privileged,” he said.
While Origin may be in the back of his mind, signing a new deal with the Panthers is also on the agenda for the off-contract star.
Last time Mansour was off-contract, in 2014, a circus surrounded his re-signing with a number of clubs keen on his signature. This time, however, things have played out behind the scenes, with a new Panthers deal hopefully not too far away.
“I’ve definitely proven myself to this club. I’ve shown my loyalty, I love this place and I’ll be forever grateful to them for giving me my NRL debut,” he said.
“I want to get a deal done as soon as possible but that’s my manager’s job.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.