Adam Reynolds, Josh Reynolds, James Maloney and Blake Austin will be waiting in the wings should Mitchell Pearce be sacked from the NSW side for off-field incidents for the second time in three years.
Pearce has a dagger dangling above his head after the emergence of a video in which he simulates a sexual act with a dog at a boozy Australia Day party.
Pearce has been stood down by the Sydney Roosters with his club weighing up whether to sack, suspend or fine their co-captain.
The 26-year-old’s chances of retaining his NSW halves jumper appear slim after yet another off-field misdemeanour.
In 2014, Pearce was sacked by Blues coach Laurie Daley after he was arrested for failing to leave a Kings Cross nightclub. He was also fined $20,000 and suspended for one game by his club.
Daley came down hard on Pearce and drew a line in the sand after excluding Blake Ferguson and James Tamou from a training camp for off-field incidents that year.
Should Pearce receive a lengthy ban, that would almost certainly rule him out of Daley’s calculations, with the team set to be named after round 11 in mid-May.
“NSWRL is aware that the Sydney Roosters and the NRL are investigating an incident involving Mitchell Pearce and in the outcome of those investigations it will be inappropriate for the NSWRL to make a comment on the incident,” a NSWRL spokesperson told AAP.
South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds, Canterbury’s Josh Reynolds and Canberra No.6 Austin are the most likely candidates should Daley need a new half while Penrith’s Matt Moylan and Manly recruit Dylan Walker are the smokeys.
The Rabbitohs No.7 was tipped to challenge for a Blues jumper last year before being sidelined with a knee injury suffered in the ‘Bad Friday’ clash against Canterbury.
Bulldogs five-eighth Reynolds, who lost his Blues jumper to Pearce last season, steered the Blues in 2014 with Trent Hodkinson to their first win in eight years to break Queensland’s Origin dominance. He could be a fallback option.
Austin has rocketed into Origin contention after thriving in the Raiders No.6 jersey last year after defecting from the Wests Tigers.
After a standout performance in City-Country with three tries and two try-saving tackles, he proved himself one of the most attacking weapons in the NRL.
He finished the season with 14 tries (ranked 13th in the NRL), 17 line breaks (9th) and 14 try assists (equal 4th).
Maloney, who has left the Roosters for Cronulla, is another option. He played the 2013 series for the Blues but was dropped the following year as a flow-on from Pearce, his then Roosters playmaking partner, being banned.
Blues selectors will also be keeping a close eye on new Penrith skipper Moylan, who could be shifted into the halves by coach Anthony Griffin.
Walker will also play in the halves at Manly, following his shift from South Sydney, and has already received the backing of former NSW coach Phil Gould to break into the NSW side this year.