NSW coach Laurie Daley accepts throwing rookie halves combination Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds into the State of Origin cauldron at Suncorp Stadium next week is a selection gamble.
On Tuesday, Daley dumped his 2013 halves pairing, Sydney Roosters duo Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, for the Origin I next Wednesday in the 100th interstate clash in favour of Hodkinson, who will make his Blues debut and Reynolds, who have been instrumental in Canterbury’s charge to the top of the NRL ladder.
Hodkinson and Reynolds are in career-best form and presented an irresistible case for selection according to Daley, against a Queensland side chasing an unprecedented ninth successive series win.
“I think in terms of a gamble, it is always a calculated gamble,” Daley said.
“I don’t think you ever throw someone in without thinking through the whole puzzle.
“For us, while we all want short-term success, I think a part of my job is to create a team that is not only going to sustain pressure for the short term but to build success for the long term.
“That may take time but it is what we need to do.”
Daley said Pearce’s Kings Cross arrest and the Roosters’ poor form cost the premiership-winning halves duo their NSW jerseys.
“It is always a tough decision to change halves but, in the best interest of the team, I thought it was necessary,” Daley said.
“Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds are playing extremely well. They are playing in a team that is leading the competition.
“They are in career-best form. I thought it was important that we had that combination there.”
“The Roosters haven’t been travelling that well; they have had their issues – their halves not playing as well as they would like to.
“It is exciting for Trent and Josh. I know they will grab it and go with it – they will feel comfortable by game time.”
Roosters flyer Daniel Tupou will also make his NSW debut on the wing.
Beau Scott and Ryan Hoffman were chosen in the second-row in place of unavailable duo Greg Bird (suspension) and Boyd Cordner (ankle injury).
Bulldogs back-rower Tony Williams has been welcomed back to the Origin stage after missing last year’s series through poor form.
NSW team: Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Michael Jennings, Daniel Tupou, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, James Tamou, Ryan Hoffman, Beau Scott, Paul Gallen (capt). Res: Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Trent Merrin, Luke Lewis