Tevita Pangai Jr admits he spent years doubting whether he was good enough for the State of Origin arena but credits a week in NSW camp with Latrell Mitchell for renewing his self-confidence.
Uncapped Pangai was the biggest surprise inclusion in either side for last month's series opener, having spent the first half of the pre-Origin period sidelined with a calf injury.
But with middle forward options Jake Trbojevic, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Spencer Leniu all injured, coach Brad Fittler turned to the Canterbury enforcer, who found himself starting for the Blues at Adelaide Oval.
At his best Pangai helped Penrith charge to the 2021 decider and earned selection for Tonga six times, but admitted there were times he wondered whether he had it in him to break into Origin.
"I'd been questioning myself a lot, about whether I could play at that level," he told AAP.
"It's been a long time. I'm 27.
"I've been on the fringe of Origin for five or six years now. To finally get there, I was just grateful to Freddy for picking me."
Pangai arrived at camp to a lesson in the importance of self-confidence taught by South Sydney fullback Mitchell.
Mitchell has a reputation as one of the game's most colourful characters, known for his rabbit-ears try celebration and his transformation into 'TrellMit' - his high-performing on-field alter-ego.
A calf injury ruled Mitchell out of the series opener but not before making an impression on would-be teammate Pangai.
"He's got that swagger and confidence that oozes," Pangai said.
"I was just taking it from 'Trell, that confidence that he has."
Pangai went on to have a mixed Origin debut against a more experienced Queensland forward pack but bounced back with a team-high 191 metres in Sunday's tight loss to the Sydney Roosters.
The Bulldogs big man said now that his confidence was back he did not need to focus on proving himself or whether he would merit selection in the second game of the series on June 21.
"It's nothing to do with keeping my spot," he said.
"I'm just grateful to Freddy for picking me for one game.
"It opened my eyes that maybe I am (good enough).
"It was a confidence booster that I could come back and show it at club land that I'm that calibre of player."