NSW coach Laurie Daley has earmarked Sydney Roosters pair Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney to once again be his first-choice halves combination in 2014.
The duo played in all three of this year’s State of Origin encounters but were unable to stop Queensland sealing an eighth successive series win.
Pearce in particular, came under fire following a disappointing display in the decider at ANZ Stadium, leading to calls for South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds to be given an opportunity.
However, he produced some of the best performances of his career when he returned to the Roosters and was a key figure in his side’s grand final success.
Daley said when he was appointed last year that Pearce would be his halfback and the 46-year-old confirmed on Friday he will almost certainly line up for the series opener in Brisbane next June.
“It was terrific for those two guys to be able to silence a few people and play well in big games,” Daley said.
“They played well in parts in the Origin series, particularly in game one, but as a team we just didn’t execute very well.
“It’s good to see them play well at the back end of the year and then the grand final as it showed a lot of character.
“They had copped an awful lot or criticism, of which some was very unfair I thought.
“Mitch certainly did nothing wrong and at the back end of the year he was the best halfback for NSW. If he starts well next season then I see no reason why he won’t be there again.”
The ARL Commission have yet to rubber stamp the dates for next year’s Origin series, which will see Brisbane host two games.
Chief executive Dave Smith said earlier this week the series could be condensed into a six-week period to reduce the effect it has on the NRL season.
Representative players are believed to be against the move, and have told the NRL that the demands of Origin make it too hard to back up for games that could be spaced apart by just two weeks.
Daley is a fan of the current format but said he’s yet too be told what the NRL are planning to do in 2014.
“At the moment we’re not sure what the time frame will be in terms of how many weeks apart the games will be,” he said.
“We are in a bit of a holding pattern and whatever happens happens. It depends on how they are going to run it.
“But personally I like it the way it is.”