NSW coach Laurie Daley has ruled out handing exciting youngster Bryce Cartwright a baptism by fire in State of Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.
Daley says Cronulla star Wade Graham, Warriors back-rower Ryan Hoffman, St George Illawarra tyro Tyson Frizell and Gold Coast’s Origin hardman Greg Bird are in a four-way battle to replace Boyd Cordner in the Blues’ starting side.
The best Cartwright can hope for is a place on the bench as the ever loyal coach once again keeps the faith in those fit and able bodies who started in the series-opening 6-4 loss to Queensland in Sydney last week.
“I don’t think Bryce is ready to start an Origin game this year,” Daley said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“That’s just my opinion and where I’m at with Bryce.
“It certainly wouldn’t worry me if I had to pick him as that fourth option on the bench.
“He’s someone that can create but we’ll wait and see.
“Put it this way, if there’s not a lot of injuries, don’t go expecting a lot of changes.”
Daley said the 21-year-old’s selection at five-eighth for Penrith’s NRL clash with Manly on Sunday “certainly gives weight to using Bryce as a utility player”, but he’s looking elsewhere to replace NSW’s players’ player from game one.
“Boyd, he’s a massive loss. He’s a leader in our team,” Daley said.
“But the obvious guys are Wade Graham, he plays left edge; Tyson Frizell, he’s been there for the last couple of years (in the wider squad and) can play left or right.
“Ryan Hoffman is a guy who brings plenty of experience, was unlucky to miss out in game one and you’ve got to be confident knowing that the guy you select will handle the atmosphere and the cauldron of Lang Park, because it is a different environment up there.
“I suppose the other one we could do is move Greg Bird to left edge and bring someone else onto the bench.
“So they’re all options that we’re looking at.”
The one certainty for Daley is that NSW will need to score more points in the expected drier conditions if the Blues are to avoid losing the series for the 10th time in 11 years.
“Game one is usually quite different to games two and three because you’re sussing each other out and you’re not sure what’s going to be thrown at you,” he said.
“But games two and three, it opens up a bit.
“We know we can’t try and win 12-10 or 8-6 or 6-4 in Brisbane. We’ve got to try and score more points. We know that.”