Is Raiders lock Shaun Fensom ready to leap into rep footy? Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Canberra and NSW Origin assistant coach Matt Parish believes Shaun Fensom is capable of breaking into the Blues side this year, labelling the Raiders lock ''the sort of player NSW could use''.
The Raiders received a huge boost on Friday when back rowers Fensom (elbow ligament) and Joel Edwards (concussion) were both cleared to take on Penrith on Saturday.
While he will play in the lime green jersey this weekend, Parish is convinced Fensom would handle a sky blue one after watching his performances closely since joining Canberra this season.
The opinion of new Raiders coach Ricky Stuart would be highly regarded by NSW coach Laurie Daley, given the pair formed one of the great halves combinations at Canberra.
Many NRL experts, and a number of Fensom's teammates, were up in arms when he was again overlooked for a maiden Country jumper last year.
Parish would be stunned if he's kept waiting again, and hasn't ruled out his chances of leaping onto the game's biggest stage.
"I don't think he's too far away from any rep football,'' Parish said.
"I'm pretty sure if he's available he'll be picked for Country and I think he'd be pushing for Origin claims really, particularly if we can string a few wins together.
"He's the sort of player NSW could use.''
Fensom's Origin-like toughness is highlighted by the fact he will play under duress against Penrith after leaving the field in extreme pain against Souths last week.
"I'm sure he'll be in a bit of pain, and I'm sure the elbow will be very sore after the game,'' Parish said.
"That's the sort of competitor he is, he means a lot to this team.''
Fensom is pigeon-holed by many as a tackling machine, and Parish admitted he underestimated the 25-year-old's quality before arriving in the capital.
"I always knew he was a good player, but I didn't think he was as good as what he is,'' Parish said.
"You probably don't appreciate what he does until you watch all the stuff he does off the ball.
"What I've been impressed with is his attack, he's making a lot of metres, he's pushing up and he's a really smart footballer.
"We're very lucky to have him here until the end of 2017.''
The inclusion of Fensom and Edwards is crucial for Canberra, which is already without star back-rower Josh Papalii until at least next week's home clash with Newcastle.
Many eyes will be on the battle of two of the best young fullbacks in the competition in Raiders Anthony Milford and Panther Matt Moylan at Sportingbet Stadium.
Parish coached Milford with Samoa in the World Cup, and said he was relishing life under Stuart.
"I think he's a lot more confident, definitely,'' Parish said.
"He had a good World Cup and he and Ricky have a good relationship, they get on really well.
"I think he's thriving and he's a bit more cocky than he used to be, that happens when you hang around Ricky Stuart, too.''
The Raiders are searching for a third straight road win, having accounted for Newcastle and Souths away from home this year.
NRL round five: Penrith Panthers v Canberra Raiders at Sportingbet Stadium, 5.30pm
TV: Live on Fox Sports