Don't be surprised if NSW go with a double whammy of second-row powerhouses off the bench in Tariq Sims and Tony Williams for Origin I against Queensland.
It was thought Sims and Williams - both uncapped at Origin level but viewed as potential big-impact players - would be competing for the same bench spot for the game at Etihad Stadium on May 23, but the Herald has learnt the idea of using both players is an idea on the selection table.
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Williams hasn't played for Manly since being suspended for seven weeks after their round-three loss to Cronulla. The Blues team is chosen after round 10, which means Williams won't have played for nine weeks if he goes straight into the Origin match. But Stuart recently said that wouldn't stop him from picking Williams if he thought it was the best way to go. And it is common knowledge that Stuart is a big fan of North Queensland's Sims.
The Maroons have won six series in a row, which means NSW must consider dramatic options if they are to buck the trend. Another Cowboys player - prop James Tamou - was accelerated into the Australian team last week as a lead-up to his anticipated introduction to Origin. Only last year, Tamou was hoping to break into the New Zealand team.
The NSW selection picture could change dramatically between now and when the team is chosen. Already the terrific performance of Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce in a beaten team against St George Illawarra yesterday has put Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace up against the ropes in his bid for a Blues spot.
Before yesterday, Wallace was rated ahead of Pearce on form before a groin injury made him unavailable for selection in City-Country. But then Pearce played well for City on Sunday, and backed it up with a big show yesterday. Pearce is a clear front runner now. Wallace will resume for the Broncos against Gold Coast at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night. It will be three weeks since he has played.
Stuart will need the next few weeks to finalise his team. A number of positions appear undecided. Some are available because players who would normally be contenders have been injured recently, some are open because no one is in the sort of form that demands the spot, and some simply have a lot of genuine contenders.
Newcastle right winger Akuila Uate and Penrith left centre Michael Jennings look to be the only obvious choices among the outside backs at this stage. Josh Morris (Canterbury), Chris Lawrence (Wests Tigers) and Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne are right-centre chances, while Hayne is also a possibility at fullback or left wing - two positions St George Illawarra's Brett Morris is in the frame for too.
Manly's Brett Stewart could make a run at fullback if he comes back strongly for Manly against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night. Stewart has been named to make a return from rib and knee injuries. It is a big blow to Canberra fullback Josh Dugan's chances that he has not recovered from a shoulder injury in time to play against Cronulla at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
The Blues have plenty of quality back-rowers to pick from. If Manly's Glenn Stewart comes back from a finger injury against the Bulldogs, he will enter into that equation too. It remains to be seen whether Stuart picks Blues captain Paul Gallen (Cronulla) at prop or in the back row. Prop seems likely, with Parramatta's Tim Mannah and St George Illawarra's Trent Merrin among the other prop contenders.