Gidley v Hayne: The battle for Blues No.1 jersey

Former New South Wales custodians Phil Sigsworth and Marty Gurr have urged selectors to dump captain Kurt Gidley and replace him with Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne as the Blues try to avoid a record fifth straight series loss.<br /><br />In what shapes as NSW’s single biggest dilemma ahead of State of Origin I on May 26, skipper Gidley is under extreme pressure to hold his spot in the starting line-up, with Dally M winner Hayne and Canberra young gun Josh Dugan both in line to replace him.<br /><br />Such a change would have far-reaching implications for the Blues after the Newcastle fullback, who has started to find form again after missing the opening rounds with injury, was named captain only 12 months ago.<br /><br />The issue is sure to be a major talking point ahead of the team announcement next weekend with another former Blues star, Greg Alexander, admitting even he wasn’t sure which way selectors should go.<br /><br />But former Origin No.1s Gurr and Sigsworth insist the time to play it safe has passed, with Hayne the man to lead a Blues’ resurgence.<br /><br />“Jarryd Hayne is the standout,” Sigsworth said. “Gidley is still the best utility player in the game but you need an X-factor and I don’t think he holds a bigger X-factor than Jarryd.<br /><br />“Jarryd can score points and you just never know when he is going to bob up because he does bob up every now and then.<br /><br />“Kurt is your real tradesman sort of player, whereas with Jarryd you never quite know what’s going to happen.”<br /><br />Gurr, who played two games for the Blues in 1983, said Hayne was the obvious choice in the Blues’ quest to score more points in 2010.<br /><br />“He creates the most danger from the back,” Gurr said. “Jarryd is the best fullback in NSW and poses the most threat to Queensland. <br /><br />“The fact is we’ve got to score more tries this year.<br /><br />“You’ve got to have strike power to do that and he is the most dangerous player returning the ball, getting involved and creating opportunities – which is what State of Origin is all about.<br /><br />“They’re very had to come by, so you’ve got to have the right people there to convert them. <br /><br />“We can’t just go through the same routine we have the past few years because it’s obviously not working.”<br /><br />But change would be difficult, with Gidley only appointed captain last year and with no obvious candidates to take his place in the leadership role.<br /><br />In fact, the make-up of the entire backline will almost certainly revolve around the captaincy dilemma, with selectors either sticking with Gidley because he is the incumbent or changing the entire structure by starting him from the bench.<br /><br />“And you can’t have your captain starting from the bench,” Gurr added. “You would have to find a new captain.”<br /><br />The fullback problem isn’t such a bad one to have, however.<br /><br />After all, Queensland faced a similar problem four years ago when Billy Slater, Karmichael Hunt and Matt Bowen all held strong claims for the no.1 jumper. Four years later, they’re yet to lose another series.<br /><br />But while Dugan’s irresistible form this season and his standout performance for Country Origin last Friday have seen him added to the list of viable options, the former greats believe that leap may be a bridge too far just yet.<br /><br />“It’s too early yet – they would crucify him in that sort of arena,” Sigsworth said.<br /><br />“It’s like racing (a horse) midweek and then going to a Group One.<br /><br />“He needs time to settle, find his feet and improve his game because he is going to be a bloody good player.”<br /><br />Alexander said he favoured retaining Gidley at fullback after Hayne starred for the Blues from the wing last year.<br /><br />“I still think Hayne can have an influence like he did in last year’s series,” he said. “It’s a toss-of-the-coin decision.<br /><br />“You could go with Hayne at fullback and that’s certainly not a bad option either.<br /><br />“But I think by having both of them on the field, they (NSW) are probably better served.”<br /><br />Sigsworth said that while Hayne still had plenty of work to do on his defence, selectors could no longer afford to play it safe.<br /><br />“Gidley is a little bit better defensively in that he knows where to be and where to stand,” he said.<br /><br />“Jarryd is still doing his apprenticeship in that regard because it’s not an easy position to play… you have to know who the kickers are, who to look for – it’s very important to know all these things and Gidley knows that stuff because he has the experience.<br /><br />“But Jarryd is still the standout for me because of what he brings in attack.<br /><br />“I just think they have to look for that X-factor this year.”