Latrell Mitchell's "mad battle" with Will Chambers typified NSW's coming of age this time last year.
Mitchell, the game's hottest young talent, was just 20 years old when he made his Origin debut alongside 10 others rookies. Chambers, a player 10 years his senior, was the ultimate Queensland warrior.
When they met for the first time in the middle of the MCG, Mitchell did not take a backwards step.
Six weeks later, Mitchell had stamped himself as the game's best centre.
He dominated Chambers at every turn and as NSW begin their preparations for next Wednesday's series opener, he told the Herald he intends to do the same again this year.
"If he’s on the right going up against me, that’s cool. It’s a mad battle. I love going up against Willy," Mitchell said. "He makes me a better player."
Personal battles with his opposite number in the centres have driven Mitchell to lofty new heights in the 12 months since making his Origin debut.
He relishes the one-on-one nature playing in the centres provides, desperate to win the individual battle if it means his team will succeed.
Making the battles personal have occasionally pushed the hottest young talent in the game over the edge but more often than not, it brings out his very best football.
"If I’m opposite a centre, I want to dominate him," Mitchell said. "It’s about making sure that he knows if I’m on my game he needs to be on his game and vice versa. If they have a centre that is playing good, I want to make sure I’m on my game.
"I want to be defending well and then attacking them when I can. That’s why I like playing in the centres."
After a "long" 11 week stint to start the season, Mitchell arrives in NSW camp eager to leave the off-field distractions which have plagued his year to date at the door.
By his own admission, his form has been a touch patchy. Unstoppable one week, average the next.
"It’s been a long 11 weeks of footy. Coming in here and taking things up another level, it’s going to be pretty good. I’m pretty keen," Mitchell said. "I’m in and out a bit, I think. I had a few average weeks at the start of the year and then I came into my own footy.
"But then I’ve gone back to square one a bit. I’m just trying to stay in the moment, that’s the key for me. Just enjoying it. Even though we have lost our last two, I have really enjoyed playing.
"I’ve had a lot of things going on. It’s been tough. But I really enjoy coming in here and enjoying that."
Mitchell admits there is something about the environment coach Brad Fittler creates which helps him thrive.
Perhaps it is the no phone policy, a ploy to cultivate the bond held by all players involved.
"It’s really good to get away from that and get to know the boys," Mitchell said. "We leave them in our rooms. It’s a long walk [laughs] but it’s good. I like when Freddy gets the boys together and not having any phones is a really good thing."
Or perhaps it is simply the stage itself. Mitchell seems to save his best football for the matches where all eyes are on him. They were this time last year and they will be again next Wednesday.
"Last year we created something special," he said. "For the boys that have come in, they’re coming into an environment that’s pretty packed.
"We patched things up from the past and now we have to keep going now. We want to create more memories.
"I just want to go out there and play my footy and enjoy being in that arena again."