Retired Queensland great Justin Hodges reckons NSW have already made a huge gaffe ahead of the State of Origin series by overlooking Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote.
The legendary Maroons centre was also left scratching his head over so many untried NRL players being handed Blues debuts for the crunch opener, warning that “Origin is another few levels up”.
Penrith’s Matt Moylan snapped up the NSW No.1 jersey after being unveiled as one of five Blues rookies for the June 1 series opener in Sydney by coach Laurie Daley – much to Hodges’ surprise.
The veteran of 24 Origins had Coote marked down for NSW fullback duty after watching him spark North Queensland’s revival in their 19-18 NRL win over his beloved Brisbane last Friday night.
Coote created something from nothing, regaining his own kick to score a try that helped the Cowboys reel in an 18-6 deficit with half an hour left on the clock.
Hodges believed Coote was a clear cut choice as NSW No.1.
“I think he is heaps unlucky,” Hodges told AAP.
“They (Coote and Moylan) play that similar role, both are used as a second five-eighth at the back.
“But in saying that I think Coote should have been picked.
“(NSW coach) Laurie (Daley) wanted to go another way – we will wait and see.”
Apart from Coote’s fullback prowess, the Cowboys No.1 had also been backed as a NSW bench utility option due to his ability to play wing or five-eighth at NRL level.
NSW’s decision to name yet another halves pairing – rookie Adam Reynolds and 2013 Blue James Maloney – along with so many other new faces also raised eyebrows with Hodges.
“A new halves pairing once again?” said Hodges who retired last season.
“That always makes it tough when you are chopping and changing.
“Usually you are trying to get the same team all the time and build those relationships.
“And game one is the most important of all.
“Picking so many rookies, sure they are playing pretty good football in the NRL but Origin is another few levels up.
“We will see how they handle it.”