Incumbents, possibles, probables and an inspirational skipper making his return.
NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley will be keeping a close eye on the action at Remondis Stadium where Cronulla host the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.
Daley will name his side on Tuesday for Origin II at the MCG on June 17 and he’ll be hoping more than most for Blues and Sharks captain Paul Gallen to come through his long-awaited return from a hip injury against the Roosters.
Joining Gallen in the Sharks’ pack is NSW incumbent Andrew Fifita who was far from convincing in the Origin I loss to Queensland and he’ll be looking for a big game against formidable Roosters’ starting props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa.
Veteran NSW back-rower Luke Lewis has a chance to force his way back into the Blues side after being overlooked for the series opener, while Cronulla hooker Michael Ennis gets his final NRL hitout before his expected recall given Robbie Farah is only a slim chance of playing due to a shoulder injury.
Gallen, who hasn’t played since April, said he’s had a good week at training.
“I haven’t missed a beat and I’ll be there on Sunday,” he told AAP.
“Fingers crossed that I play well enough that I’ll be picked for Origin.”
Daley will be watching the Roosters pretty closely too, with four incumbents and a Blues’ possible in their line-up.
Winger Daniel Tupou had a poor Origin I and with Canterbury’s Brett Morris expected to make his return against St George Illawarra on Monday, the giant Roosters’ NSW spot is under threat.
Daley will be hoping Blues’ incumbents Michael Jennings, Mitchell Pearce and Boyd Cordner come through unscathed for the Roosters, while five-eighth James Maloney could give the NSW coach something to think about with another big effort this weekend.
The last-start performances from both sides could not be more contrasting with the Roosters embarrassing Melbourne 24-2, while the Sharks got lapped 42-6 by the Dragons.
Cronulla have become the Roosters’ bogey team, winning six and drawing one from their 10 meeting since 2010, easily the glamour club’s worst record against any team in that period.
Roosters and Queensland back-rower Aidan Guerra admitted the Tricolours have developed as a team since losing to the Sharks 20-12 in their round-five clash in April.
“The coach has come up with ways for us to play better and smarter football against teams that come to get into a bit of a dogfight,” Guerra said.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Sharks have lost just one of their past five matches against the Roosters in the Shire, but that was last start – a 24-18 loss early last season.
*At home, the Sharks have won just four of their past 18 matches, but two of those wins have come in their past three games.
* The Roosters have conceded just 16 points in their three straight wins going into this, including holding an opponent try-less for the first time this season in win over Melbourne last Monday night.