NSW starts Brett and Josh Morris are likely to miss the rest of the State of Origin series due to injuries.
NSW coach Laurie Daley is facing a selection dilemma on a number of fronts ahead of the second State of Origin match.
The Blues sit in the box seat ahead of the return fixture in Sydney on June 18 after their 12-8 win on Wednesday as they seek to break Queensland’s eight-year stranglehold on the interstate series.
But Daley will be searching for a new right centre-wing pairing for the remainder of the series with confirmation twins Josh and Brett Morris will likely miss Games II and II.
While the 23-time Blues representative will also be agonising over who to leave out of his Game II side, with the suspended Greg Bird to return for the ANZ Stadium clash and back-rower Anthony Watmough set to be fit.
The Manly star aggravated an arm injury at Suncorp Stadium but it wasn’t as bad as first thought and he might play against Brisbane on Sunday.
However Daley’s worst fears were realised when Canterbury confirmed Josh Morris will miss up to eight weeks due to a posterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in the second half of NSW’s game one win.
The injury rules him out of Game II and he will be racing the clock to be right for Game III in Brisbane on July 9.
The news was worse for his brother and St George Illawarra star Brett who appears set for an extended stint on the sidelines.
“Brett Morris has suffered a fracture and ligament damage to his shoulder and will be out for an indefinite period of time,” a Dragons statement said.
Morris’ courage epitomised NSW’s effort in Game I, after he suffered a dislocated shoulder scoring a first half try but played on.
Parramatta star Will Hopoate is set to make a stunning recall to the Origin arena for Josh Morris, after two years out of the game.
Brett Morris’ replacement is not as clear cut though with Newcastle duo James McManus and Akuila Uate possibilities, alongside Manly’s Jorge Taufua and Wests Tigers flyer Pat Richards.
With Bird set to return to the Blues back-row, Tony Williams, Beau Scott or Ryan Hoffman could be an unlucky casualty.
Eels coach Brad Arthur has done Daley a big favour though, ensuring man-of-the-match for the interstate opener Jarryd Hayne should be 100 per cent for Game II, resting him for Parramatta’s clash with Penrith on Friday night.
Hayne said he had never been so physically or mentally drained after the Blues’ win and Eels medical staff said the superstar fullback was in need of a break.
“All the advice from our medical staff is that he’s too big a risk in terms of what his load was while he was away and his performance the other night,” Arthur told 2KY’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“The risk outweighs the benefits of him playing tonight: we need him long term and for the rest of the year.”
Hayne starred in the opening game of last year’s series before breaking down in the corresponding NRL game last year with a hamstring injury and missed the rest of the series.