State of Origin is two months away but NSW coach Laurie Daley and his adviser Peter Sterling have already had two selection meetings since round one to compile a list of names under consideration.
Manly brothers Tom and Jake Trbojevic, as well as St George Illawarra forward Paul Vaughan, are among the list of rookies under consideration.
So, too, is veteran Penrith rake Peter Wallace, who has now moved behind incumbent Robbie Farah in the race for the Blues No.9 jersey after a strong start to the season for the Panthers.
NSW have plenty of depth in most positions to cover for injuries, however a shortage of quality hookers means they can’t afford an injury to Farah – who has been told by the coach that he remains an integral part of his plans for 2017.
“The chat that I had with Robbie was that if he’s playing well and he’s the best hooker, then we’ll select him,” Daley said.
“If he’s not, we’ll go in another direction. It wouldn’t worry me if I had to go with Peter Wallace. He’d do a really good job. We just haven’t got those young hookers pushing them. Peatsy [Nathan Peats] was underneath but he got injured and won’t be back until round eight or nine, so that’s put him back a bit.”
Sterling, who has replaced Bob Fulton as Blues adviser, will decide on the make-up of the team in consultation with the coach. There was a suggestion last year that Fulton played an integral part in Dylan Walker earning his maiden Origin jersey, however Daley insists he always has and will continue to get the team he wants.
“We might have started off having different opinions but at the end of the meeting we always came away with the team we both agree on,” Daley said of Fulton.
“I’m sure that will be the same working with Pete. I’ve certainly taken everything that Pete says on board. We’ll discuss a lot of things. I have a huge amount of time for him as an analyst and football judge. He will certainly have an influence on the make-up of the team and how we go about things. He will do whatever he wants to do or as little as he wants to do.
“When it comes to selecting the team, both Pete and I will sit down and nut it out. At the moment he’s got an idea, I have an idea and we’ve tossed up some players who we are looking at and that will continue for the next seven or eight weeks. We’re speaking about who is playing well, who needs to lift and who is in the frame and who may not be in the frame. We talk a lot about everything. It’s similar to what I did with Bozo.”
Jarryd Hayne is a few weeks away from returning from an ankle injury, but he is no certainty to be picked. Daley said he wants to see Hayne string together consecutive games at a high standard.
“A big-game player but hasn’t played any footy,” Daley said.
“If he is going to be part of Origin he needs to be back playing, and hopefully he can do that. You want him to be playing well. He’s a guy that if he is playing well without being a superstar, of course he’ll be someone we’ll look at getting in.
“Someone like Tom Trbojevic – we’re looking at him, too. He’s a really good young player and playing well at the moment. He has to work hard and not believe everything that’s being written about him at the moment because things can change pretty quickly. The best advice I can give him is not to listen to anyone else’s opinion but his coach’s.”