Canterbury boss Todd Greenberg has expressed his shock over the absence of in-form prop Aiden Tolman from an extended New South Wales squad after he played a key role in the Bulldogs’ 16-6 win over Wests Tigers last Friday night.
Tolman missed selection in coach Ricky Stuart’s 20-man squad with Wests Tigers big man Keith Galloway a surprise inclusion as injuries continue to hamper the Blues’ State of Origin preparations.
Galloway, who remains on standby with a number of players in doubt for tomorrow week’s decider, becomes the sixth prop chosen by Stuart this year behind Jason King, Kade Snowden, Tim Mannah, Trent Merrin and Paul Gallen.
But it is Tolman’s phenomenal stats this season that must have him wondering what he has to do to earn a representative debut.
The 22-year-old ranks first among all of the NRL’s front-rowers in 2011 for total runs (219), average runs (18.2) and average metres per game (139.2) as well as sitting second for total tackles with 433 and fifth for average tackles with 36.1.
Greenberg said he was stunned to learn that Tolman had again missed NSW selection after proving he was back to full fitness following a knee injury with a strong performance against the Tigers at the weekend.
“I think it’s a surprising omission,” said Greenberg, who travelled to Adelaide with NRL chief executive David Gallop yesterday for talks ahead of the Bulldogs’ Round 18 clash with Melbourne at Adelaide Oval.
“I think Aiden Tolman – there is no doubt that he is a future Origin player. It’s obviously not going to be in 2011 but we’ve got no doubt that he will be an Origin player. He’s got all the hallmarks of it and he has been nothing but absolutely phenomenal for us in the start of our season.
“He can probably count himself a little bit unlucky.
“Obviously he picked up the knee injury at a crucial time when he missed a couple of games but certainly his work ethic and his numbers and his stats are second to none.”
Asked if he felt Tolman should have been an automatic selection, Greenberg said: “Absolutely. He is a genuine team player as well and very popular among his team-mates. He has only been here for a short time but he has been a leading light so he has certainly been a great acquisition for us.
“Again, maybe the timing of that injury might have a little bit to do with it.
“Maybe they didn’t think he had enough games under his belt but I know one thing – when he does get picked he won’t let anyone down.”
The Bulldogs have been largely overlooked on the rep scene this season with hooker Michael Ennis the only player to have taken part in this year’s Origin series.
Aside from Tolman, centres Josh Morris and Jamal Idris have also been on the outer in 2011 with Idris subsequently being stood down from the Bulldogs’ Round 15 loss to Cronulla after missing training two weeks ago.
Tolman’s recent two-week absence through injury coincided with a three-match losing streak that has placed enormous pressure on coach Kevin Moore but Friday night’s win over Wests Tigers cemented the Bulldogs’ place in the top eight ahead of this week’s crucial trip to Penrith.
“A week is a long time in rugby league and a lot of what’s happened will be forgotten if we win again this weekend,” Greenberg said.
“At the moment we’re just happy that we’ve got a win up and can stay out of the papers for a week. I think it’s something we all needed.”