Next Sunday’s City-Country clash shapes as a genuine selection trial for the hotly disputed NSW five-eighth slot after Josh Reynolds and James Maloney were named in the respective sides.
Blues incumbent Canterbury star Reynolds, who has come under harsh criticism for his form from NSW great Andrew Johns, just holds the inside running for the Blues No.6 jersey for the opening State of Origin clash in Sydney on May 27.
But Sydney Roosters premiership-winning pivot Maloney is coming into form at the right time of the year, after a slow start to the NRL season.
With Blues coach Laurie Daley looking on 2013 NSW five-eighth Maloney and Reynolds will go head-to-head in Wagga Wagga.
“The thing is Laurie Daley has had a big input into both teams,” City and NSW assistant coach Brad Fittler said at the announcement of the sides at Rugby League Central on Sunday.
“So Josh will be playing for a reason, he has had plenty of energy of late, they (Canterbury) were not very successful on the weekend but hopefully this week he can put things in the right direction and have a good game.
“He has just come back from injury and I think the game time will really help him.”
Country coach Trent Barrett said Maloney had it all before him.
“I think James Maloney has a hell of a lot to play for,” Barrett said.
“It was two years ago he was the NSW five-eight alongside Mitchell (Pearce) and I have named him captain for a reason and this is a huge op for him.
“The two Roosters halves have been up and down a bit, but Jimmy’s last two weeks have been really good.
“We have to look at it as a real positive we have a lot of people to pick from in that NSW side.
“If we can get both of these guys to pay well and Brad’s halves to play well that will give Laurie a few options
Incumbent NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson has been rested from the match, as has Mitchell Pearce.
South Sydney’s City duo Luke Keary and Dylan Walker are both in doubt for the representative clash due to injuries suffered in the Rabbitohs’ loss to Canberra on Sunday.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said City No.7 Keary had some issues regarding bruising while centre Walker had a knee problem.
NSW City: Matt Moylan, James Roberts, Dylan Walker, Waqa Blake, Daniel Tupou, Josh Reynolds, Luke Keary, Andrew Fifita, Nathan Peats, David Klemmer, Curtis Sironen, Wade Graham (capt) Tyrone Peachey. Interchange: Blake Austin, Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Kane Evans, Jason Clark. 18th Man Joseph Paulo.
NSW Country: David Mead, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Croker, Jack Wighton, James McManus, James Maloney (capt), Jarrod Mullen, Dale Finucane, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Kade Snowden, Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizell. Josh Jackson. Interchange: Jack Bird, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims, Ryan James.