Soward's Origin debut hopes alive
Super coach Wayne Bennett helped Jamie Soward to win his first premiership last year. Now his guidance - and another strong performance against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Monday night - could help the Dragons' five-eighth to make his Origin debut next month.
The premiership-winning playmaker, 26, has been overlooked in the past with his style of play apparently not suiting Origin football. But two seasons under Bennett has enhanced his chances, with new Blues coach Ricky Stuart saying Soward was "certainly under consideration".
And with Stuart putting all NSW Origin hopefuls on notice to perform in round six, Soward has the perfect opportunity to impress against a tough opponent in John Sutton, who is expected to have a big game. He’s yet to register a try assist in 2011 after finishing with a team-high 16 in 2010.
"Jamie is an exciting player who has matured and developed over the last couple of seasons under the guidance of Wayne Bennett," Stuart said.
"Jamie was selected in our Blues In Waiting squad and has always been talented and possessed a brilliant kicking game. He is certainly under consideration.”
With 2010 Dally M winner and Soward's grand final opponent Todd Carney under an injury cloud, Soward would have to be considered one of the leading contenders among the fit, in-form and experienced genuine five-eighths.
Meanwhile, the Dragons will join the Broncos and Storm on top of the Telstra Premiership ladder with a 5-1 win-loss record after six rounds if they can maintain their record over the Rabbitohs tonight.
The Dragons have won six of their past eight NRL encounters and 13 of 16 overall, as well as easily bagging the Charity Shield in mid-February.
The Rabbitohs’ last victory was in 2009 when they smashed the Dragons 41-6 at ANZ Stadium. While it was their biggest win over the Dragons, it remains their only win over them at ANZ Stadium from four attempts.
With tonight's match to complete round six, the Broncos are on top of the table ahead of the Storm and Dragons. The next three teams - Cowboys, Sea Eagles and Bulldogs - have lost two games, with the top eight rounded out by the Wests Tigers and Knights on a 3-3 win-loss record.
The Raiders are alone on the bottom of the table with only one win, while the seven teams above them have won two games each - the Sharks, Roosters, Warriors, Rabbitohs (one game to play), Panthers, Titans and Eels.
On Friday night, the Bulldogs fought back from an early 14-0 deficit to win a spiteful encounter, 34-14, at ANZ Stadium during which four players were sin-binned; while the Titans registered their second win of the season, beating the Wests Tigers 20-14 at Skilled Park.
On Saturday, the Broncos smashed the Roosters 24-6 at Bluetongue Stadium, with Sydney missing injured five-eighth Todd Carney; the Sea Eagles, minus injured fullback Brett Stewart, beat the Warriors 20-10 at Brookvale Oval; and the Cowboys won 26-18 at Dairy Farmers Stadium to keep the Raiders at the bottom of the table.
On Sunday, the Knights held off the strong-finishing Sharks, 24-20, at Ausgrid Stadium; while the Storm continued their dominance with a 25-10 victory over the Panthers at Centrebet Stadium.