He’s feeling the love again and it’s showing in his game, but one-time NSW five-eighth Jamie Soward hasn’t given State of Origin a second of thought as he focuses on transforming Penrith into an NRL premiership force.
Soward has been influential in the Panthers’ climb into the top four since moving to the foot of the mountains this season, his sublime kicking and passing game getting the team home in tight wins over Canterbury and then Canberra at the weekend.
A long-time favourite of former Blues coach Phil Gould, the ex-Sydney Rooster and St George Illawarra No.6 is clearly thriving again after Penrith’s general manager revived his NRL career.
Soward ended up at the London Broncos last year after falling out with Dragons coach Steve Price mid-season, but under Panthers coach Ivan Cleary – and Gould – the oft-maligned playmaker is suddenly a Blues option again.
He played all three games in 2011, starring in the series-levelling second match, but made way for Todd Carney in 2012 after the Blues lost the decider.
Carney also only played one series after the Blues again lost 2-1 in 2012, with James Maloney becoming his Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce’s latest NSW halves partner last year.
Despite NSW once again losing 2-1, Soward suspects Blues coach Laurie Daley will stick with Maloney – or opt for Canterbury’s Josh Reynolds or South Sydney captain John Sutton to fill the troublesome No.6 jumper.
“I haven’t given up on it but, to tell you the truth, you’re asking the wrong person. Ask Laurie Daley,” Soward said on Monday when quizzed about his Origin ambitions.
“James Maloney is a fantastic player and he’s doing lots of things right for the Roosters.
“Josh Reynolds has really impressed me the last couple of weeks with his enthusiasm and the way he plays the game.
“So, look, if you had a list at the moment, I don’t think I’d be on it.”
Soward said his experience was there for all to see.
“Without sort of being too rude or arrogant, I’ve played State of Origin so those people would have seen how I perform in that arena,” he said.
“So I don’t really think about it. I know people will say `it’s in the back of your mind’ and all this rubbish, but I don’t.
“I’m all in with the Panthers. If I’m picked, I’m picked. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”
Another former Blues half, Penrith captain Peter Wallace has no doubt Soward is capable of an Origin recall, but says the pair’s immediate focus is on delivering for Penrith.
“Sowie plays his best footy when he’s confident and I think he’s pretty confident at the moment,” Wallace said.
“You never know what can happen if injuries or what-not happen. If we get our combination going and the team’s going well, anything can happen.
“But I think it’s probably not worth worrying about.
“We’re probably better of worrying about Penrith and if we’re winning games, you never know.”