Trent Merrin has spoken for the first time since his shock State of Origin axing ahead of Wednesday's Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.
Merrin – a veteran of 13 Origins for New South Wales – was overlooked for the series opener at the beginning of the month.
The 26-year-old was told by coach Laurie Daley the Blues were "heading in a different direction" this series by initially naming big men James Tamou, Andrew Fifita and David Klemmer on the interchange.
Merrin's Origin dumping became a harsher reality when Daley chose to bring Tyson Frizell in for his debut on Wednesday night following Wade Graham's suspension.
"It pulled at a few heartstrings when it first happened. But what can you do? You have to get back on to the horse and work harder so you can put yourself back in the picture when it comes around again," Merrin said.
"I wish them all the best but on a personal level, I'm working on what I have to work on and keep putting myself in that frame.
"Most definitely it was a shock. It was a pretty emotional time but you can't sit in your own pity and go to the wayside.
"You have to bring everything back in and focus on number one which is yourself. Even if it's not next year or the year after, I'm going to make sure I'm continually in the frame."
Merrin's snubbing hasn't prevented him from watching this year's series, however.
"The best way to learn is to swallow your pride and put yourself in that position to watch the players who were picked ahead of you and to see what they're doing differently to what you are," he said.
"So of course I watched the game. It was hard to watch them go down to Queensland but (the Blues) have the nucleus to pick it back up."
The Shellharbour Sharks junior praised Panthers teammates Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour after their Origin debuts but warned the Suncorp Stadium cauldron would add an extra level of pressure in Game Two.
"They were great on debut and they can only get better from that. They have my belief and trust to get the job done in Queensland," he said.
"It's a different world when you step out on to Suncorp Stadium. You have to be a part of it to explain the feeling. But they're two professionals and they proved in Origin I that they'll be able to handle the occasion."
If there is a silver lining to his Origin axing, it's that Merrin has been able to focus on being a leader for the Panthers' young squad – particularly with James Segeyaro and Jamie Soward dropped to Penrith's Intrust Super Premiership side in recent weeks.
"I knew what I was in for when I signed with the club. It's such a young, talented team and I've been around for a little bit now so it's been great to come here and play that sort of leadership role," Merrin said.
"I don't need to be doing too much talking or anything like that though. I like to lead through actions though to be honest, the boys hold their own.
"They're really humble and they're willing to learn which they all take on board. It goes to show with Carty (Bryce Cartwright) in the Origin [squad] and the way we're going compared to last year."
This article first appeared on NRL.com.