Josh Reynolds has been proud to hold his own on the State of Origin stage. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.
New South Wales five-eighth Josh Reynolds says it is a point of pride for himself and halves partner Trent Hodkinson not present a weak link in defence, saying they don't need the bigger players in the side to protect them.
Hodkinson has always been a strong defender but Reynolds was identified as a potential weak link in the Blues' line ahead of the series, with 36 missed tackles in his 12 games for the Bulldogs this year.
However Reynolds has missed just five tackles in 160 minutes of the fiercest examination in rugby league, and none has been too costly. Compare that to opposite number Johnathan Thurston – who has 11, and was targeted to great effect by Blues fullback Jarryd Hayne in the opening game – and it is clear Reynolds has done his job in defence, along with Hodkinson.
The halves' defensive efforts have helped the 2014 New South Wales team concede just two tries in 160 minutes of Origin football against a truly great Queensland team.
"Me and Trent take massive pride in our defence," Reynolds said.
"We told the boys straight away [ahead of Game One] in any of these games we don't need any protectors and I hope we've showed them that, we're not spots in this team."
Reynolds said he hoped the pair had earned the confidence of their Blues' teammates after being picked ahead of NSW incumbents Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.
"You've got to earn it," he said. "I knew straight away coming into camp guys aren't necessarily going to trust you. No-one wants to stuff up, no-one wants to look bad and you've gotta trust your halves to get you to certain spots to put you through holes or to be there for you.
"Before the side was picked and we heard we were a chance of making it we said to each other, 'imagine if we get picked and imagine if we win the series?' And it's happened.
"It's been a massive ride. I'm just so privileged and so glad I was a part of this history breaking NSW side."
Reynolds said the two had never even contemplated being picked together in Origin until their names started getting mentioned ahead of Game One this year.
"We literally wouldn't have spoken about it once. My mindset was to hopefully get a spot on the bench like I did last year if I was playing good enough and Laurie picked me at five-eighth I definitely would have been over the moon and I'm sure Trent would be the same," he said.
"He was playing great footy and obviously had a couple of pretty crucial moments in Bulldogs games [kicking winning field goals in back-to-back games in Rounds 6 and 7] and Laurie just went with us and hopefully we haven't let him down. That's all we wanted, we wanted to show people we were up to this level."