What young gun took from first taste of Origin

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Keaon Koloamatangi's first full season as a South Sydney Rabbitoh couldn't have gone much better – apart from the ending, obviously.

"Losing a grand final is good motivation," he told Wide World of Sports.

"Not many people get a ring in a career and I was lucky enough in my first full year to experience a grand final. I want to do it again, there's no feeling like it.

"Obviously we fell short but there's no regret there, just disappointment. I left everything out there. I'm not a guy that hangs onto things – I live and I learn. It's not the end of the world, there's always another season and it gives you the motivation to get better."

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In a year full of success stories for South Sydney, Koloamatangi's rise might have been the best, elevating himself from a bench forward that played a bit of middle and a bit of edge in 2020, to one of the best backrowers in the competition a year later.

"It's pretty humbling, to be honest. I don't really see myself like that – at the start of last year I didn't even know if I'd be in the team. But every opportunity I've been given, I try to take with both hands, and I haven't looked back," he said.

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After then-coach Wayne Bennett came to him and told him it was his jersey to lose for the remainder of the season, he was able to approach the game with a different mindset.

"Two years ago if I dropped a ball I'd think I was going to get dropped so I'd probably try and do something spectacular to make up for it – but now I can just move on when that happens, everyone makes mistakes," he said.

Souths fans would be salivating at the prospect of Koloamatangi elevating his game even further, after a brilliant 2021 that had him on the cusp of State of Origin selection.

The Mascot junior was called into Brad Fittler's camp during the series, but didn't play. 

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"It was pretty cool, it was almost a year to the day since I debuted in first grade. I was just grateful to get the opportunity, and it helped me become a better football player," he said.

While it's far too early to be speculating about that for 2022, Koloamatangi said that it's glory with Souths that he wants, and anything else is a bonus.

"Wanting to play the best for the club is my first goal, and the second is winning a premiership," he said.

"All the other stuff comes after that – I do want to play Origin, that's a dream come true, but I just want to go out there and play my best football and if I do get the call-up, I'll be ready."

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