John Sutton has the backing of former teammate Ashley Harrison for the contentious NSW five-eighth position. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos
Queensland Origin veteran Ashley Harrison has crossed state borders momentarily to give New South Wales selectors a hint on how to bring an end to the mighty Maroons' eight-Series winning streak: Pick John Sutton at five-eighth.
A decade since he was first touted as an Origin prospect, Sutton's time to join the Origin arena has finally arrived according to his former Rabbitohs teammate who was a key member of Maroons Series-winning sides from 2008-2010.
Harrison was in his second year at South Sydney when a 19-year-old Sutton made his debut for the Rabbitohs against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in 2004 and now, 10 years later, is firm in his belief that Sutton should be headed for another game at Suncorp Stadium on May 28, only this time wearing the blue of his state rather than the cardinal and myrtle of his club.
Sutton was involved in a train-off with Josh Reynolds for a spot in the Blues squad for Game One last season and despite missing this week's City-Country clash in Dubbo with a quad strain, Harrison has no doubt he is the man for the job.
"For sure," Harrison said when asked whether Sutton was deserving of selection. "I can't believe he didn't get a crack last year. He was playing some really good footy and he'd dead-set get the job done.
"He wouldn't let anyone down and I definitely think it's time for him to get a crack.
"He was there [in 2004], as a kid, and I saw 'Sutto' go from a kid that came in to a guy that was getting talked about playing Origin when I left.
"We all know what he's done since then, he's a great footy player and I hope to see him in the Blues jumper this year."
A shoulder injury to incumbent Blues No.6 James Maloney and a problematic hamstring injury to Sharks pivot Todd Carney has made the search for Mitchell Pearce's halves partner coach Laurie Daley's greatest selection headache.
In games against the Sharks, Panthers and Warriors Reynolds came up with two try assists for the Bulldogs and will get a further chance to press his claims when he opposes Jarrod Mullen on Sunday afternoon.
Maloney's nine line-break assists are one more than both Reynolds and Sutton while Mullen has just the two. In terms of try assists, Reynolds' eight is two more than Sutton and four more than Maloney yet in three games Mullen has not contributed one try assist.
Mullen's great appeal lies in his kicking game – being left-footed is an additional bonus – but he will need to prove that his hamstring is proving no hindrance when he lines up for Country.
Two players who were also in the representative picture, Titans halves Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly, are both facing extended periods on the sideline following confirmation of injuries coming from their 22-6 win over the Wests Tigers.
Kelly was diagnosed with a crack in his fibula that may sideline him for up to three weeks while Sezer will have scans later in the week on an ankle injury that also has him in severe doubt for the Round 9 clash with the Rabbitohs.
It's an untimely double blow for the high-flying Titans but Harrison said it simply places further emphasis on the forwards to win their battles in the middle.
"We've got some great depth here and I'm sure whoever [coach John Cartwright] puts in there will be able to do a job for us and as long as our forwards keep standing up and we keep defending well I'm sure whoever's here will be able to direct us around," he said.
"It happens and the teams that can go through with as limited injuries as possible usually go the best. But in saying that, we've put ourselves in a position and if injuries happen, they happen, we've just got to cop them on the chin and move on and make sure whoever goes in there gets the job done."