Trent Hodkinson is putting serious pressure on Mitchell Pearce for the NSW halfback spot with the Blues side for game one to be named on Tuesday.
Trent Hodkinson is in line to make his State of Origin debut for NSW with coach Laurie Daley and his selectors seriously considering calling on the Canterbury halfback for next week’s series opener.
Daley refused to confirm who will wear the No.7 jumper for the Blues in Brisbane on May 28 but indicated incumbent Mitchell Pearce is by no means guaranteed to keep his place when he announces his line-up in Sydney on Tuesday morning.
Pearce infuriated Daley by getting arrested following a boozy night out in Kings Cross and was subsequently fined $20,000 and stood down for one game by the Sydney Roosters.
Pearce’s Roosters halves partner James Maloney is also facing the axe with selectors concerned by his recent club form and senior selector Bob Fulton is a known admirer of Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds.
Reynolds and Hodkinson have helped guide their side to the top of the NRL ladder and the former Manly halfback also has the advantage of being one of the most consistent goalkickers in the competition this year.
Unlike last year, Daley has given no guarantees Pearce will keep his spot and said Hodkinson didn’t do his chances of selection any harm with his display against the Warriors on Saturday.
“I am a massive supporter of Mitch, he’s still only 25 and has a lot more to give,” Daley told AAP.
“But we’ll make a call and it will be for the good of the side. Any decision we make will be down to a combination of his form and the disciplinary side of things.
“I think Trent has been good, he’s been really good and played some really strong football.
“He’s probably the in-form halfback of the comp.”
The lead up to Tuesday’s announcement has been the most tumultuous week of Daley’s brief coaching career.
Talismanic back-rower Greg Bird is out due to suspension and the Roosters’ Test forward Boyd Cordner is also unavailable due to an ankle injury.
In addition to the selection quandaries, Daley’s also had to deal with the fallout from his war of words with high-profile media personality Ray Hadley who he accused of trying to unsettle the team’s preparations.
Daley accused Hadley of unsuccessfully trying to put pressure on him to axe assistant coach Matt Parish, who is now involved in a relationship with the broadcaster’s ex-wife.
However, the former Canberra great insists there is plenty of positives going into game one with the return to fitness of Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen and Luke Lewis.
Farah made a successful comeback from a dislocated elbow in Wests Tigers’ win over Cronulla on Saturday and the Sharks pair also came through unscathed at Remondis Stadium.
Gallen has played the last three matches after sustaining ankle syndesmosis in round one with Lewis featuring in the last two following off-season shoulder surgery.
“Lewy is a wonderful player, he’s good around the group and passionate about playing for NSW and there’s a lot of respect for him internally,” Daley said.
“He’s come through two weeks of footy and has got in a state where he is physically ready to go.
“He’s a legend Gal … he’s a real competitor and a leader and someone who is very important to us.
“As for Robbie, he was instrumental in the Tigers’ win at the weekend and that is great for us.”
Daley has confirmed Jarryd Hayne will start at fullback with Newcastle’s Beau Scott and Canterbury’s Tony Williams in line to return to the back-row.
Another Bulldog, Josh Jackson is also in the mix for a spot on the Blues bench.