Almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for NSW coach Laurie Daley, a fortnight before he names his team for State of Origin I.
Poor form, injuries and possible suspensions have thrown the Blues’ first defence of the Origin shield in eight years into disarray just three weeks out from Game I on May 27.
Ahead of his team naming on May 19, Daley will have only bedded down a few names for inclusion in his 17 for Game I. In contrast Queensland’s side has virtually chosen itself.
A possible eight match suspension for Blues enforcer Greg Bird, which would see him miss Origin I and II, and a knee injury to Josh Dugan only added to Daley’s blues on Monday.
Incumbent five-eighth Josh Reynolds all but played himself out of his Blues No.6 jersey with an ill-disciplined below-par effort for City in the loss to Country at Wagga Wagga on Sunday.
Reynolds faces a week on the sidelines for a trip on Country’s Tariq Sims, which would leave the Canterbury star just one NRL game to press his unlikely Origin claims before Daley picks his side.
Dugan was one of the few certain starters in the NSW side before suffering a knee injury in Australia’s Test lost to New Zealand in Brisbane on Sunday.
More should be known about the extent of the St George Illawarra star’s injury on Tuesday amid fears he will not be right for Origin I.
Brett Morris will almost certainly miss the Origin opener with a hamstring injury, while Alex Johnston’s low involvement in his Test debut and NSW incumbent and City winger Daniel Tupou’s continuing lacklustre form is of concern.
Australian centre Michael Jennings has also struggled for form this NRL season on the back of Sydney Roosters’ four-game losing streak.
NSW captain Paul Gallen remains a 50/50 proposition for the ANZ Stadium opener as he battles a hip injury.
Of great concern at the selection table for Daley is his halves, with Reynolds well out-pointed by Country playmaker James Maloney in Wagga Wagga.
However Maloney’s defence is a significant concern, with momentum building for an unlikely halves combination of Canterbury’s Trent Hodkinson and Sydney Roosters’ Mitchell Pearce.
The Dogs and Roosters meet in round 10 at ANZ Stadium on the Friday before Daley chooses his team, giving Pearce, Maloney, Hodkinson and Reynolds the chance to play off for a Blues jersey just four days before the NSW team is named.
However there is some good news for Daley.
Back-rower Beau Scott will play for Newcastle against Manly at Brookvale Oval on Sunday after shaking off an ankle injury, while Josh Morris is set to overcome an ankle complaint to play for the Dogs against North Queensland on Saturday in Townsville.
Will Hopoate has overcome a groin problem and will play for Parramatta against the Storm in Melbourne on Sunday.
Hopoate returned to the NSW side last season after two years away on a Mormon mission and believes he is now better placed to stake his claim for a Blues jersey.
“Physically now I feel better,” Hopoate said.
“Having the two years off and then coming back, there was a bit of adjustment to the physicality side of things.
“But I feel a bit more adjusted now to the physical side of the game.”
WHY THE NSW SIDE IS IN DISARRAY THREE WEEKS OUT FROM ORIGIN I
The Blues enforcer and vital middle defender is facing a six to eight weeks suspension for his ugly tackle on Jason Nightingale in the Kangaroos’ Test loss to the Kiwis. That ban could see him miss Origin I and II.
Could miss Origin I with a knee injury suffered late in the Kangaroos’ Test loss to New Zealand.
The sorely out-of-form incumbent NSW five-eighth is set for a one-week suspension for tripping Tariq Sims in City’s loss to Country in Wagga Wagga on Sunday.
The NSW skipper is only a 50/50 proposition to be fit for Origin I as he battles a hip injury.
Set to miss Origin I and II with a hamstring injury.
The South Sydney winger’s underwhelming Test debut is a concern.
The out-of-sorts NSW incumbent winger was challenged by City coach and NSW assistant Brad Fittler to lift his game in the Wagga Wagga representative fixture but wasn’t as involved as he could have been.