Greg Bird should wear the No.6 jersey for NSW.

Greg Bird should wear the No.6 jersey for NSW. Photo: Getty Images

NSW can win the opening State of Origin without Robbie Farah.

It’s who plays five-eighth - or defends against Sam Thaiday - that will be fundamental to the Blues’ success in this year’s series.

James Maloney was targeted by Maroons hardman Sam Thaiday.

James Maloney was targeted by Maroons hardman Sam Thaiday. Photo: Getty Images

That man is Greg Bird.

Like most things that come out of Rutherford, near Maitland, he is scared of no man, and very few Queenslanders. Unlike James Maloney last year, he’d be all over Thaiday like Thaiday is all over a McFlurry from McDonald’s.

Debate about which players wear the sky blue this year has come later than usual, but Farah’s elbow injury has put it on the agenda very suddenly.

Past Blues sides have had trouble stopping Thaiday.

Past Blues sides have had trouble stopping Thaiday. Photo: Getty Images

Farah has been the form hooker of the NRL this season, despite the sudden love affair with Parramatta’s Nathan Peats, and it was an encouraging sign for Blues fans.

Then the rugby league gods go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like delivering him an elbow injury with two lousy minutes remaining in a match against the Cowboys, on a wet Saturday night, in front of two men and a dog at Campbelltown.

According to Fairfax Media reports, Farah has told NSW coach Laurie Daley he is “hopeful” of being fit for the opener at Suncorp Stadium on May 28, but he is unlikely to have played again since then.

If Farah’s fit, pick him.

His punch and options out of dummy half are the reasons why the Wests Tigers have gone from one of the pre-season wooden spoon favourites to the form side of the competition.

There was a time, not that long ago, when Farah wasn’t considered Origin material, and past players and coaches said as much out loud.

He was out of favour with then NSW coach Ricky Stuart, and many within the Blues set-up had run a big red line through him after he played injured in an Origin decider a few seasons ago.

Then, suddenly, he elbowed his way ahead of Bulldogs rake Michael Ennis and earned his start in 2012. He finished that series as NSW’s best.

This came following the death of his mum, Sonia, to the cancer in the middle of the series.

I will still remember a touching moment at Sydney Airport the morning after the Blues had lost the decider in Brisbane, through no fault of Farah.

After Farah had grabbed his bags, and he turned around, he gave Stuart a massive hug.

“Love you, mate,” he told the coach.

That series for NSW was important for Farah. He's an Origin player, no doubt. Yet last year he was the key reason the Blues lost the decider.

With the captaincy thrust upon him in the absence of Paul Gallen, he overplayed his hand, taking terrible options on the last tackle, and nullifying whatever there was of the Blues’ attack.

So if not Farah, who? Michael Ennis or Kurt Gidley will do. Talk that it should be Peats confirms Monday’s story in the Herald that 80 per cent of Australians have tried illegal substances.

Indeed, there are other questions that will be starting to keep Daley awake at night.

Jarryd Hayne at fullback or in the centres? Centre, please, after his performance for Australia during the World Cup. Put Josh Dugan in the No.1.

Hopefully Andrew Fifita can sign a contract somewhere, soon, and he can return to the form he displayed last year.

The key position, for a change, is not halfback. Mitchell Pearce - who was blunted by Farah’s selfishness in the decider - is the best option, whether you like it or not.

No, the big question is five-eighth. Or, in modern-day rugby league parlance, the bloke who defends at "left three". In other words, third in from the wing.

Last year, it was Maloney, and Thaiday trampled him.

Some believe Newcastle’s Jarrod Mullen - a solid defender - wouldn’t let that happen. Others prefer the Bulldogs’ Josh Reynolds, who could be lethal off the bench, but not the greatest of defenders, despite his aggression.

Todd Carney isn’t just having a bad hair day, but is also out of form, and can be a turnstile when big forwards single him out.

As Andrew Johns said last week, five-eighth is the most open position in the NSW line-up, and there is certainly a strong belief among those who matter that Bird is the right man for the job.

NSW have traditionally been strong when they have had a big, strong five-eighth, or at least one who defends like a forward. In recent times, they've had the worst three defending five-eighths in the comp: Jamie Soward, Carney and Maloney.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s dilemmas start and finish with how they fit the best halfback in the game - Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans - into their side.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.