Origin talk dogs Stuart
IT SEEMS everyone in New South Wales has had an opinion on who coach and sole selector Ricky Stuart should name on Sunday in his side for game one in this year's State Of Origin series.
Should he go for Brett Stewart, Josh Dugan, Anthony Minichiello - or even Jarryd Hayne - at full-back?
Is much-maligned Tigers hooker Robbie Farah up to State Of Origin, or should the out-of-form Michael Ennis keep his job?
And with Newcastle captain and origin regular Kurt Gidley confirming yesterday he needed a shoulder operation and would miss the rest of the season, who should be named as his replacement on the bench.
While Queensland fans have been mildly amused by the relentless speculation, former Canterbury and New South Wales captain Steve Mortimer said it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"The reason we've had so much speculation is we've got good depth in a number of positions," Mortimer said.
"It's actually a good problem to have. I've got absolute faith in Ricky to pick the best team."
Mortimer wasn't prepared to add to the speculation on who Stuart should choose, preferring to outline the qualities needed to succeed at the highest level.
"The players must have talent, a great work ethic and great bonding," he said. "Whether you're talking about choosing a hooker or full-back, it's not who is the greatest player, it's who gets along best with their teammates."
At the end of the day however, it will be who Stuart and his sole advisor, former Manly superstar Bob Fulton, think can help take the trophy back south of the border.
And the latest speculation suggests those players will be Stewart at fullback, Farah at hooker and Manly utility Jamie Buhrer on the bench.
Also likely to get a jersey are Cowboys young guns Tariq Sims and James Tamou.
Penrith centre Michael Jennings is under an injury cloud, his position complicated by the fact the Panthers don't play until Monday night.
Queensland's problems are minor in comparison.
Cowboys veteran Brent Tate is almost certain to start on the wing made vacant by the long-term injury to Jharal Yow Yeh, while Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans will most likely step into Cooper Cronk's bench position.
That leaves the only question remaining for selectors being whether Broncos veteran and Origin warhorse Petero Civoniceva has done enough to retain his position in the front row.