Reagan Campbell-Gillard reckoned his chance to play State of Origin had passed him by, but the Parramatta front-rower reserved special praise for the impact Junior Paulo has had on his Eels career.
Campbell-Gillard made his Origin debut in 2018 while at Penrith before moving to Parramatta the following year.
Injuries and the form of other props have kept him out of the side, with Paulo one of the forwards who moved ahead of Campbell-Gillard in the pecking order for a NSW spot.
"I thought it had passed me by and I'm lucky to get a shot," Campbell-Gillard said.
"I still feel there are a lot of better front-rowers. I feel like I've been playing the same way each year but can't put my finger on what it is.
"I am enjoying life outside of football and that's reflected in how I'm playing."
Paulo is named to start while Campbell-Gillard will come off the bench on Wednesday night, meaning there may be little time that the pair spend alongside each other on the field.
Regardless, Paulo claimed that Campbell-Gillard's recall was richly deserved.
"His form has been outstanding this year and we've got a great one-two punch combination," he said.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to play alongside him at this level. He's been killing it and you could definitely say that (he is in career best form)."
NSW players enjoyed their last proper rest before the series opener, catching a late-night movie on Sunday night before a day off training on Monday.
They will have a light captain's run on Tuesday, before close to 80,000 are expected at Accor Stadium on Wednesday night for Sydney's biggest post-pandemic crowd.
And Paulo and Campbell-Gillard will enter the arena knowing just how dangerous they can be together.
The pair have built one of the most-effective front-row partnerships in the NRL and as a team, only Penrith have run for more metres than the Eels this season.
Parramatta also top the competition for offloads and completed sets.
A big part of that is how Campbell-Gillard and Paulo get them going forward with the likes of Ryan Matterson, who will make his NSW debut, coming off the bench and continuing that good work.
"Our combination has been building really nicely and it's the best I've had as a front-row partner," Campbell-Gillard added.
"It's normally me who is taking the ugly hit-up on play one for Junior, but his skill level is off the charts.
"I just have to get them rolling and I think that's where he comes in.
"He's got a great passing game, he is a freak and his skill level is incredible and his soft hands put doubt in the defence."