New South Wales State of Origin coach Laurie Daley says St George Illawarra full-back Josh Dugan is a certainty for game one although he is not sure what position he will play.
Daley kept his halves selection cards close to his chest on Wednesday, but said Dugan had done enough to play in the opening match in Sydney on May 27.
“Josh will be in the team, it’s just a matter of where he will play,” Daley said.
Dugan played centre for NSW and the Dragons last year and, despite returning to his favoured full-back role at club level this season, made his Kangaroos debut at centre in the Anzac Test earlier this month.
The full-back position is one of a number of spots up for grabs in the Blues team as incumbent custodian Jarryd Hayne’s NFL defection and a number of injuries have conspired to cast doubt over who will get the number-one jersey.
Dugan, Penrith’s Matt Moylan, Manly veteran Brett Stewart and Wests star James Tedesco have all been thrown up as possibilities, although Daley has said Tedesco is probably not quite ready.
Still to decide on his halves pairing, Daley admits he would rather pick two players who have a club combination but he is not married to the idea.
“I’ve always felt comfortable playing with a (club) combo but I’m not ruling out the possibility of splitting players,” he said.
Canterbury pair Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson played all three games lsat year as the Blues got their hands on the shield for the first time since 2005, but with Reynolds’ form and discipline in a sizeable trough, it remains to be seen if Daley will stick with his incumbents.
Reynolds and Hodkinson, who has also been below his best this season, face something of an Origin play-off when the Bulldogs face the Roosters and former representative playmakers James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce on Friday night.
South Sydney half-back Adam Reynolds is out of the reckoning as he is set to miss eight weeks after breaking his thumb in his first game back from a knee injury.
Daley was speaking at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where the second match of the three-game series will be staged.
The NSW coach said Melbourne’s knowledge of rugby league had increased markedly since the formation of the Melbourne Storm in 1998.
– with AAP, ABC