Brett Morris’ telling everyone to lighten up. Robbie Farah’s fit and firing up. Nemesis Cooper Cronk’s sidelined. And the skipper’s now back in the fold too.
They might be staring at a one-nil hole in the State of Origin series, but the stars are slowly aligning for NSW to force a decider as the Blues begin their training camp in Coffs Harbour.
Coach Laurie Daley made just two changes to the side that went down by a point in the series-opener in Sydney, re-instating Morris and captain Paul Gallen for Game II in Melbourne next week after the duo came through unscathed from their respective injuries last weekend.
Winger Daniel Tupou and prop Andrew Fifita were left out, while Origin rookie Josh Jackson shifts to the bench for Gallen.
Farah was also named despite not having played since suffering a shoulder injury in Game I, having been cleared to return.
“It’s great, given that they’re three leaders in the team,” Daley said.
“‘Gal’ was great on the weekend and `B-Moz’ was good as well.
“And then Robbie surprised everyone, not so much the way he’s worked on his shoulder, but the recovery. All those three are right to go.”
Daley said the Wests Tigers captain would be monitored over the first half of the week before stepping up his involvement by Saturday.
“We’ll leave him out of the contact until the weekend,” he said.
“Speaking to the doc and physio, if he wasn’t able to do contact on the weekend, there’ll be a lot of concern.
“It’s just precautionary at the moment, but he’ll train Wednesday and Thursday with us.”
Perhaps the biggest boost however came in the form of skipper Gallen, who punched out a standard team-high 225-metre and 40-tackle statline in Cronulla’s upset win over the Roosters on Sunday.
It was his first game back since injuring his hip against Newcastle in Round 6.
While Gallen laughed at the idea of lining up for a field goal, he hoped his experience would make a difference to the side that had its heart broken three weeks ago when it was unable to organise a successful field goal and watched as scheming Maroons half Cronk slotted the winning one-pointer.
“That (organisational leadership) is what I have to bring,” Gallen said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a big difference because it’s only one point.
“The boys really tried hard, the effort was absolutely outstanding.
“We’ve just got to be a bit smarter at crucial points and if I can bring anything there to make a difference, I will.”
NSW: Josh Dugan, Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Michael Jennings, Will Hopoate, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, James Tamou, Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods, Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman, Paul Gallen (capt). Interchange: Josh Jackson, Trent Merrin, Boyd Cordner, David Klemmer.