Origin auditions all the rage this round
RUGBY LEAGUE: More than 30 NRL players will be hoping to make a last-ditch pitch for State of Origin this weekend as NSW and Queensland selectors run their eye over a host of fringe candidates for the final time before naming their squads for Origin 1 in Brisbane in a fortnight.
NSW coach Laurie Daley, facing some very tough calls at fullback and also in the halves, could be tempted to throw in a few rookies, such as Sydney Roosters beanpole winger Daniel Tupou, into a series opener at Suncorp Stadium on May 28.
Daley, already monitoring the fitness of several players including forward Andrew Fifita (ankle) also has the unwanted distractions of halfback Mitchell Pearce's Kings Cross escapades to overcome as he plots a way for the Blues to end Queensland's eight straight series domination.
Queensland will campaign on the slogan "It's time ... let's make it 9".
Unbeaten Maroons coach Mal Meninga has fewer selection dramas than his former premiership-winning Canberra teammate Daley.
But there are whispers he could begin looking to the future by making a change of two to his champion side with veteran North Queensland winger Brent Tate one player understood to under pressure to hold his place.
Selectors from both states will be out in force this weekend watching all eight games, with Queensland announcing its squad on Monday night and Daley revealing his the following day.
There has been much debate over the NSW halves with calls for Daley to drop Pearce who has played 12 Origins without being part of a series win.
Daley has options.
He could go with Newcastle No.7 Jarrod Mullen or Souths terrier Adam Reynolds and play Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds ahead of
Pearce's club teammate James Maloney.
South Sydney's John Sutton also has admirers at No.6 because of his size and ability to play several different positions.
The Roosters fined Pearce $20,000 and stood down from this weekend's clash with the Cowboys and unless the NRL takes tougher action it's most likely Daley will stick with him at least for Origin 1.
"It's tough when you have so many options when a couple of players you know were going to be in the team may not be there," Daley said.
Fullback is one of Daley's biggest headaches with Manly's Brett Stewart, Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne, Dragon Josh Dugan and latecomer David Mead all in the mix.
Hayne looms as the likely No.1 with talk Dugan could grab a place on the wing.
Among the players auditioning this weekend are:
Queensland: Dave Taylor, Brent Tate, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Justin O'Neill, Josh McGuire, Ben Hannant, Josh Papalii, Dane Gagai, Darius Boyd, Chris McQueen, Ben Te'o, Aidan Guerra, Dylan Napa.
NSW: Aaron Woods, Daniel Tupou, Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin, Josh Dugan, John Sutton, Josh Reynolds, Tony Williams, Luke Lewis, Adam Reynolds, David Mead, Jarrod Mullen, Brett Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Will Hopoate, Kurt Gidley, Josh Mansour, Jamal Idris, Jamie Buhrer.