NSW great Andrew Johns views young Cronulla gamebreaker Jack Bird as a State of Origin bolter, but admits the Blues will be up against it no matter who they pick.
Johns says he doesn’t have an answer to how NSW can bounce back from last year’s series-deciding 52-6 hammering at the hands of Queensland.
“Maybe ask Thurston and Cameron Smith and Cronk and Slater and Inglis to retire. That might be a start,” Johns told AAP as the rampant Maroons eye a 10th series win in 11 years.
“They’re freakish. It’s as simple as that. They’ve got five or six or seven once-in-a-generation players. It makes it pretty tough (for NSW).”
Bird, the 2015 Dally M Rookie of the Year, wasn’t included in coach Laurie Daley’s 17-man Emerging Blues squad in January.
But Johns still expects the 20-year-old to feature sooner rather than later.
“Laurie says he’s going to go with a utility role with someone on the bench, so maybe he could be there,” Johns said.
“He’s an enormous talent. He can play anywhere, so I’m sure his name will be bandied around in there somewhere.”
Disgruntled fans and critics called for wholesale changes to NSW’s ageing roster in the immediate aftermath of last year’s game-three humiliation.
Veteran skipper Paul Gallen says the onus is now on the Blues’ core to regain coach Daley’s trust.
“That’s up to every individual to play good enough football to represent NSW in the team that gets picked after round 12, I think it is,” Gallen said.
“So there’s still a long way before it gets picked and just as long as everyone is standing up and putting their hand up to play, Laurie will pick the best team available.”
Daley and Wayne Pearce are the only two New South Welshman to have captained and coached Blues sides to series wins.
Pearce is calling for selection stability.
“I wouldn’t be cleaning out the personnel at all,” Pearce told AAP.
“If you are looking going into game three (last year), it was one apiece.
“So did all of a sudden the players that won us the game earlier in the series become bad players overnight?
“There might be a couple of changes but it will be more on current form than anything else.”
Pearce, though, says his troubled son Mitchell shouldn’t be thinking just yet about retaining his five-eighth spot as he serves his eight-game suspension for his drunken Australia Day antics.
“The furthest thing in his mind at the moment is setting a goal to play Origin because he just needs to get back on track,” he said.
“The priority for me as a father and for Mitchell as the person involved is for Mitchell to get his head in the right space and to get back on the field playing good footy.”