No fewer than seven outside backs are one outstanding 80-minute performance away from securing a NSW State of Origin position heading into this weekend's matches.
Blues coach Laurie Daley is undecided about the make-up of his side heading into game two following the injuries to Brett and Josh Morris after the Blues' first-up win. The likes of Will Hopoate, Josh Dugan, Jack Wighton and Dylan Walker are all vying for the centre spot should Daley not switch Jarryd Hayne, Luke Lewis or Beau Scott.
Dugan and Hopoate are also wing contenders with the likes of Jorge Taufua, James McManus and Josh Mansour having an opportunity to stake their claims this weekend.
In the wings: Josh Mansour of the Panthers. Photo: Getty Images
Hopoate and Taufua will feature on Friday night with the kicking game of Blues halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson set to test Taufua’s major flaw – securing the high kicks – when Canterbury play Manly at Brookvale Oval. Hopoate's Eels play North Queensland.
Just days after leaving Blues camp, where he was an emergency player, Hopoate produced his worst performance of the season last week against Penrith and almost played himself out of an Origin spot. Another bad performance at Pirtek Stadium could cruel his chances.
Regardless, Blues skipper Paul Gallen has called on Hopoate to replace Josh Morris at right centre for NSW.
Option: Greg Bird. Photo: Getty Images
''I would be more than happy and comfortable with Hoppa playing in the centres,'' Gallen said. ''I think he deserves his spot. He has been there before. He has been playing great all year. Everyone has been pumping his tyres up and then he has one game that he wouldn’t be happy with, everyone is kicking him while he is down. I think he can get the job done.
''On the wing there are three options that I can think of: Dugan, Taufua and McManus. I would be comfortable in either of them getting a spot.
''I don’t know if they’ll move Lewis [to centre]. They’ll probably leave him on the bench because he has so much utility value. Beau Scott is a definite option.''
In the mix: Will Hopoate. Photo: Getty Images
Shifting Lewis or Scott would allow Greg Bird back into the side after he missed game one through suspension. With Daley and selection adviser Bob Fulton so undecided, Gallen said a good performance this weekend could be enough for someone to force their way into the squad.
''Without a doubt,'' Gallen said. ''A good performance can certainly get them over the line.''
The Blues will also be sweating on the performance of back-rower Anthony Watmough, who has vowed to play on with a ruptured biceps. Watmough will line up for Manly on Friday night against a big Canterbury forward pack. Out-of-favour Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita is desperate to be a late inclusion for the Sharks against St George Illawarra to push his slim chances of an Origin recall.
Former NSW utility Shaun Timmins said players could be distracted by talk of their possible Origin inclusion.
''For some of the younger blokes you have to try not to listen to people and read too much in the media,'' Timmins said. ''It is hard to block it out of your mind. It’s a good incentive to have though, that if you play well you are a chance of sticking your hand up for Origin.
''When I played, I found it hard not to think about it.''
Blues in waiting
Wing: Josh Mansour, James McManus, Will Hopoate, Jorge Taufua, Josh Dugan.
Centre: Hopoate, Dugan, Dylan Walker, Jack Wighton
Others: Greg Bird, Andrew Fifita, Anthony Watmough