Country fullback David Mead scored two tries in a superb first outing in rep footy against City. Credit: Col Whelan Copyright: NRL Photos
City Origin coach Brad Fittler knew David Mead was a man to be watched closely but the Country fullback further pressed his claims for a shock Origin call-up with a faultless two-try performance in Sunday's 26-all draw in Dubbo.
Despite playing only 12-and-a-half senior matches at fullback prior to his selection for Country, Mead was the person of most interest to City coach Fittler but his blistering pace not only saw him bag two tries but also come up with key defensive plays.
With injury concerns hanging over Jarryd Hayne and Josh Dugan and all five New South Wales-eligible wingers who played rep football on the weekend – Brett Morris, Kevin Gordon, James McManus, Jorge Taufua and Daniel Tupou – left wingers for their club sides, Mead's ability to cover fullback and right wing must be an enticing option for Blues coach Laurie Daley.
Such is the specialised nature of right and left wingers in the modern game, City coach Fittler gave both Tupou and Taufua 40 minutes on their preferred left side but neither will unseat incumbent Morris, who scored twice in the Kangaroos' 30-18 defeat of the Kiwis on Friday night.
City Origin hooker Beau Falloon sees Mead's work first-hand on an almost daily basis at the Gold Coast Titans but now has an even greater appreciation of his teammate's talents having had to stand opposite him on Sunday.
"He was a big part of our plan," Falloon said of City's focus on the Country No.1. "Our kick-chase had to be really good and we did a lot of video on 'Meady' throughout the week showing the stuff that he's been doing this year at fullback.
"Playing against Meady, you just realise how much of a good player he is. I actually tackled him once and he was rock-solid – it actually hurt my shoulder – so playing against him you realise just how good a player he is.
"From training against him to playing against him, he's definitely a top player."
Mead and Kevin Gordon both debuted for the Titans in the 2009 season and have been engaged in a friendly rivalry on opposite wings to be the Titans top tryscorer ever since. Mead currently leads that tally 53-52 and although regular fullback William Zillman is due to return from injury this week against the Rabbitohs, Gordon is adamant that Mead's days on the wing are over.
"I think he's grown more into a fullback now," said Gordon, who also scored a try in his representative debut for Country. "Now that he's had a taste of it I think he really wants to stay there at fullback and I think when he goes back to the wing he second-guesses what he has to do, so fullback's his main spot.
"He's trained real hard and always does his extras and I think he really deserved a spot there. It's not really surprising me, he's doing everything that he does at training and it's just showing in the games now.
"We've got a good connection there, me and him, we're always talking it up at training, a few moves that we can do and link up together so it's always good having him in there [at fullback]."
A representative for Papua New Guinea at both the 2008 and 2013 World Cup tournaments, questions surrounding Mead's Origin eligibility were quickly resolved when Dragons custodian Dugan withdrew from the Country team with an ankle injury.
Boyd Cordner and Andrew Fifita both parlayed strong performances in last year's fixture into Origin and Test jerseys and Gordon insisted that each player who took the field in Dubbo was hell-bent on impressing those in charge of state selections.
"We had a big talk before the game and Trent Barrett said that this was a pretty important game for selection and that how you play this game is how you're going to get selected," Gordon said.
"He said that the whole 17 played real well and gave it a good shot at getting selection. [NSW coach] Laurie Daley was there watching and [Barrett] said all 17 [Country] players had a good chance of making it."