Former Blues hooker Michael Ennis believes Cronulla teammate Wade Graham is made for State of Origin and vital to NSW’s hopes of keeping the 2016 series alive.
As debate rages around who Laurie Daley chooses to replace injured second-rower Boyd Cordner for game two in Brisbane in two weeks, Ennis is adamant Graham should be the Blues coach’s go-to man.
Ennis says Graham – a standout in the Sharks’ rise to NRL table toppers who has served as 18th man under Daley – has the toughness, skills and running and kicking game to excel in the Origin cauldron with the series on the line.
“I imagine for Laurie one of the big things going to Suncorp for a (potential) decider is wanting to be able to sleep at night knowing that your blokes won’t get overawed by the occasion,” Ennis said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“And playing with Wade, the one thing that I love playing with Wade is that he loves the occasion.
“He wouldn’t be a guy that would be fearful of going to Queensland. He’d be excited.”
With the Blues only managing one try in the game-one loss to Queensland in Sydney last week, Ennis also nominated Graham as the perfect ball-playing forward to get dangerous centre Michael Jennings more involved in the game.
He said Graham playing on the left fringes outside Sharks clubmate and Blues five-eighth James Maloney as the middle man between Jennings and powerhouse winger Josh Mansour would be gold.
“The more ball Michael Jennings can get, the better in terms of the State of Origin and the attack for NSW,” said the Sharks veteran who deputised for the injured Robbie Farah in last year’s series decider in Brisbane.
“By having Wade in the side certainly with the left foot is a huge bonus for them.
“Then to have that ability to get early ball to Michael Jennings and Josh Mansour on that left-hand side, which we saw in patches in that first game and looked quite dangerous.
“They actually really targeted in small spurts that edge of (Queensland pair Dane) Gagai and also (Justin) O’Neill and they really started to make some inroads but they didn’t persist with it.
“I think Wade would really do some damage down that left edge.”