Matt Encarnacion,, Big League
They’re on opposite sides on Sunday, but City Origin centre Michael Jennings is secretly hoping Country five-eighth James Maloney impresses enough to line up alongside him for NSW in Origin I on June 5.
While selection for the Series opener in Sydney will be exactly 36 days after the City-Country fixture, this weekend presents the perfect opportunity for Jennings’s club-mate to impress NSW selectors – particularly with all of Maloney’s rivals for the No.6 sidelined this weekend.
Incumbent Blues five-eighth Todd Carney (foot), Canterbury hopeful Josh Reynolds (shoulder) and Newcastle pivot Jarrod Mullen (knee) are all missing from the NSW Origin trial, gifting Maloney an edge as the battle for selection heats up.
“Obviously having played alongside him this year, I got to know how much of a quality player he is,” Jennings told Big League. “Everything he does off the field is all professional and everything he does on it is just so natural. I’ve got a lot of confidence in ‘Jimmy’ performing. What he’s doing now for the Roosters, I reckon he can do it on the representative stage. I’m actually pretty confident that Jimmy might get that chance.”
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In Maloney’s favour will be his rapidly improving combination with halfback Mitchell Pearce – who has already been pencilled in by coach Laurie Daley for the halfback role – and his role as first-choice goalkicker for his club. Unless Kangaroos utility Kurt Gidley is picked in Daley’s run-on side, NSW will have no recognised goalkicker other than Carney, who has relinquished the job at club level this year.
With the electric Jennings likely to also be in the side, the in-form Roosters’ trio could be the perfect tonic to spoil Queensland’s attempt at eight straight Series victories.
“It would help because with ‘Juju’ (Pearce) and Jimmy, we’re all already working together and really adapting to each other’s games so hopefully it makes it easier for him to get that position,” Jennings said.
“Of course I’d love him to be there – not just for his attack, but because of his defensive reads as well ... We’ve covered each other so many times already this year. That’s the good thing about Jimmy – I know that if I’m going to stuff up, he’ll cover me, and vice versa.”