Wade Graham headlines a trio of contenders to replace injured NSW tyro Boyd Cordner for State of Origin honours when round 13 of the NRL begins on Friday.
The reeling Blues were dealt a body blow before their must-win game in Brisbane after the Sydney Roosters confirmed Cordner has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a foot injury.
Cronulla forward Graham, together with St George Illawarra’s Tyson Frizell and Penrith gun Bryce Cartwright, now have two weeks to impress Blues coach Laurie Daley before the game two team is picked.
Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, whose side sit atop the NRL table, was adamant Graham’s name was on the selection table for the series opener and should be discussed again to help NSW tie up the series.
“Boyd Cordner played outstanding in game one and I heard he’s injured now, so he’s out for a month, which is disappointing for Boyd. But if Laurie wants someone ready to go, Wade Graham’s the person,” he said.
Flanagan said Graham, who would join Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and James Maloney in the squad, had been putting his hand up for a number of years.
“His form this year, he’s played against all the best back-rowers in the competition and he’s held his own there,” he said.
“Boyd wasn’t playing that well for the Roosters, gets put in that arena and gets man of the match. Give Wade a chance and I’m sure he’ll do the same.”
Cartwright was named in Daley’s extended squad for game one as a development player, but had to drop out of camp at Coffs Harbour because of a thumb injury.
He has been named to take on Melbourne on Saturday and will have a golden chance to press his claims after a dynamic start to the season.
He spearheaded NSW City in their 44-30 upset win over Country last month, leading to the likes of Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler to call for him to be handed his Origin debut.
Frizell was also included in Daley’s initial 19-man squad after being brought into camp as 18th man for game one last year, but was released and played for the Dragons last weekend.
Flanagan also backed calls for centre Jack Bird to be included as a utility in place of Dylan Walker, whose selection was criticised following a nine-minute stint against the Maroons.
“Jack’s ready to go as well. He’s got that utility value,” he said.
“He’s going to be a long-term Origin player but when that career starts, I’m not quite sure. If it starts next Origin, it’d be great for him.”
Game two will be played at Suncorp Stadium on June 22.