FIVE PLAYERS WITH MOST AT STAKE IN CITY-COUNTRY:
Josh Reynolds (City) – The Canterbury five-eighth is the NSW incumbent and would normally expect to be given first bite at the cherry, however it is appears that is not the case. He missed three weeks early in the season with a fractured arm and has yet to rebound to his best. He has been guilty of fading out of games this year and NSW coach Laurie Daley will want to see how he performs under pressure.
James Maloney (Country) – The man nipping at Reynolds’ heels is James Maloney. He has been given the Country captaincy and coach Trent Barrett believes he is set to stand up with the added responsibility. Maloney has improved in recent weeks and was close to the best on ground in the Roosters’ close loss to Melbourne a fortnight ago. It’s interesting to remember he didn’t lose his NSW jumper on form, rather Mitchell Pearce was axed because of an off-field misdemeanour and Daley decided to go with Hodkinson and Reynolds because of their club combination.
Matt Moylan (City) – Along with the halves, the biggest point of contention is the NSW No.1 jersey. With Jarryd Hayne in America chasing his NFL dream, the fullback spot is vacant. Josh Dugan, who will play for Australia on Sunday afternoon, appears to have his nose in front however Moylan is not out of the picture. Moylan’s strength is his playmaking ability and plays as an extra half. Look for Moylan to get his hands on the ball often and take the line on.
Andrew Fifita (City) – After a horror 2014 plagued by serious injury and a contract saga, Fifita lost his NSW and Australian jumpers. He looked to be getting back to his best form in the early rounds before he was suspended for two weeks for a dangerous throw. While James Tamou and Aaron Woods are set to lock down two front row positions in the NSW side, and with Paul Gallen under an injury cloud, there is at least one front row spot open for Fifita.
Josh Jackson (Country) – There are a few questions to be answered about the make up of NSW’s bench and the Canterbury back-rower is well in the running. While Tyson Frizell, Joel Thompson and Wade Graham are also in the running, Jackson’s claim is hard to ignore having made his debut for Australia in last year’s Four Nations. Country coach Trent Barrett described Jackson as the “perfect utility” and capable of playing at hooker and five-eighth.