Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce can cement themselves as NSW’s long-term halves combination by securing a State of Origin series win next month in Brisbane.
Hodkinson and Pearce, after outpointing their Queensland opposites in Wednesday night’s 26-18 win at the MCG, say their combination is continuing to strengthen ahead of Origin III on July 8.
Canterbury playmaker Hodkinson came into game two under as much pressure as any player, but performed with aplomb, leading the Blues well around the park and his goal kicking was faultless in booting five from five.
“I think our combination went up another level (in game two),” Hodkinson said.
“I thought game one, we were solid. Obviously, having that second camp under our belt, we went even better.
“We will keep in contact between Origins like we did last time and obviously, rooming together as well, we have that combination working well and it will be better for game three.
“We are working well together, we are tight, we have always had that friendship and we will be ready for game three.”
The last time a Blues halves pairing was retained for the following series was when Brad Fittler and Brett Kimmorley were again selected for game one in 2001 after the Blues’ 3-0 sweep the year before.
That lack of continuity has been one contributing factor to Queensland’s Origin dominance since then. But that could change if Pearce and Hodkinson can engineer a come-from-behind Blues series win in 2015.
“It would be great to win it up there,” Pearce said.
“It would be a privilege to win it wherever you win it, but to win it up there is such a challenge and with that comes with more satisfaction.
“That is just the way it has panned out and we love playing up there; the boys won there last year so that is a good thing.”
Pearce, excelling this season on his return to the Origin arena, said Hodkinson’s cool demeanour complemented the way he played. The Sydney Roosters’ halfback is enjoying the increased latitude that has come with playing five-eighth.
“He is an easy guy to play with,” Pearce said.
“He knows his game and doesn’t go out of his game and what his strengths are.
“I feel like we are building nicely, that was a big win and it is all positive at the moment.
“Playing five-eighth, I don’t have to be the main organiser on the ball all the time, I am running the ball more and probing and just trying to compete.
“That is my role and I can pick and choose my time. I am really enjoying it.”
NSW will chase back-to-back series wins for the first time since 2005.
Blues skipper Paul Gallen is expected to be fit for the decider despite suffering a rib injury in the MCG win. Cooper Cronk is likely to return to the Maroons’ side for Daly Cherry-Evans after missing game two with a knee injury.
Blake Ferguson is the only possible change for the Blues. He could come onto the wing for Will Hopoate, but he did look rusty in his comeback game for the Roosters against the Warriors last week after a leg injury, despite scoring the matchwinning try.