HE was a shock appointment as Wests Tigers captain, and now Queenslander Moses Mbye is eyeing another special honour by breaking into the Maroons Origin side.
With the Queensland No.1 jumper lying vacant following the retirement of champion Billy Slater, Mbye is keen to throw down the challenge to Kalyn Ponga – the Newcastle young gun most consider a shoo-in for the fullback spot this year.
Ponga may well be the frontline candidate to succeed Slater, but his Origin selection prospects could be complicated by a positional move at club level that will see him play five-eighth for the Knights in 2019.
That opens the door for Mbye, who is set to start the new campaign for the Tigers at fullback following his mid-season transfer from the Bulldogs last season.
Moses is no stranger to the Queensland fold. The 25-year-old has been a regular face in the Maroons’ Emerging Origin program in recent years and there is no question he has the natural talent to ascend to the code’s toughest arena.
But the new Tigers skipper concedes he must improve his consistency this season to clinch a Queensland jumper after six years refining his game in the NRL.
“There’s no doubt I would love to play Origin,” said Mbye, a Noosa Pirates junior.
“Every kid who was born on the Queensland side of the border dreams of that Maroon jersey.
“But you get those rewards from playing consistent footy and quality footy in clubland.
“To be honest, I haven’t always done that.
“You need to focus on NRL form. You can’t be going into the NRL thinking ‘I will play Origin one day’.
“The more success you have at club level, the more opportunities you get personally in the rep arena.
“If I can get the Tigers going in the right direction, then I’ll be putting my hand up. My main focus is start well early for the Tigers. I can’t wait to rip in.”
When Mbye became a victim of Canterbury’s salary-cap pressures last season, several clubs lined up to sign him.
Mbye had been consistently linked with a move to the Titans because of his ties as a Queensland product, but he has found his niche amid the hustle and bustle of Sydney.
“I never really thought of coming home,” he said.
“I’ve got a young family now and we are settled in Sydney. We have our home and my wife and I are happy to stay where we are.
“It can be stressful with young kids, so it’s been seamless going from the Dogs to the Tigers. It’s only a short drive from Belmore to Concord.”
Mbye has played 103 first-grade games since his Bulldogs debut in 2014, but despite posting a century of NRL games, the playmaker with African blood admits Queensland fans have yet to see the best of him.
“I’ve been a bit patchy and inconsistent throughout my career,” said Mbye, who played in the Bulldogs’ 2014 grand-final loss to Souths.
“It’s hard to identify the exact reasons, but in previous years I probably haven’t handled the pressure and the criticisms.
“As I’ve gotten older and found more perspective, I am managing the pressure better.
“I was happy last year with my consistency, I felt I bridged that gap between my best and worst games and that’s what the quality players in the NRL manage to do.
“For me, this year is about consistency. I’ve had four coaches in 18 months so now I’m looking forward to working with ‘Madge’ (new Tigers coach Michael Maguire) and building a successful culture for this club.”