Friday Frenzy: The new Blues hooker contender

Why David 'Wolfman' Williams is the NRL's most successful player, how Campo will stop JT, and the Storm hooker who could become a Blue in 2012.

CAMPESE v THURSTON: This match-up could prove to be a preview battle between this year’s State of Origin five-eighths – and having disposed of Benji Marshall’s Wests Tigers last round, Canberra No.6 Terry Campese believes his side is well prepared to shut down anything North Queensland has to offer on Monday night.

“It will be pretty similar to last week, to be honest,” the Raiders captain tells NRL.com. “They do throw the ball around a fair bit, like the Tigers did, and you’ve just got to watch outside JT (Thurston) because he is probably the best half in the game. Last week we played against Benji who has been the best five-eighth in the game. It’s going to be a similar type of defensive game plan this week – shutting down their ball players and cutting down their thinking time.”

While Campese is wary of the threat posed by his opposite number, he has been particularly impressed by the manner in which Thurston has worked with team-mates Ray Thompson and Matt Bowen so far. In many ways, he says, it reminds him of his own role.

“I think the Cowboys are sharing the workload a lot more so it’s not so predictable with Thurston running all the plays,” he said. “This year they’re trying to spread it between the three halves and when that clicks I think it will be a lot harder to defend. They’re still getting used to it but when they get it right they’re going to be a very potent team.”

“We’re in the same situation – we worked hard in the off-season trying to share the workload between me, Josh McCrone and Josh Dugan. Even our No.9 is doing a lot more work there as well, so that we aren’t as predictable.

“I think we’re starting to show the form we’re wanting to show. With Reece Robinson at the back there – I thought he did a terrific job and he can only get better as well.”

Having missed all but nine minutes of the 2011 season through injury, Campese’s return this year has provided a huge boost to the Raiders’ finals hopes.

And although he still describes himself as a work in progress, the Canberra captain said he was satisfied with how far he had come over the opening rounds following his standout performance against the Wests Tigers.

“It was a big step forward to where I want to be,” he said. “I guess my first [40-minute periods] I’ve been pretty happy with throughout the four games, but it’s just fitness I’ve been lacking. I worked hard on it over the off-season – it’s just that game fitness that takes a while to get used to.

“Last weekend was the best I’ve felt and hopefully I can keep improving on that so I’m in the game longer.”

HOWLS THAT: Parramatta haven’t had too much to get excited about so far this season and their task won’t get any easier when they face a former Eel in Saturday night’s clash with premiers Manly.

It’s a little known fact that Sea Eagles winger David Williams actually boasts the highest winning percentage of any player in the competition at 74 per cent – and he has never lost against his former club in three previous meetings.

Worryingly for the Eels, ‘The Wolfman’ has scored five tries in those three clashes, while opposing wingers have scored a total of 17 tries against them in Parramatta’s past 12 outings. It could be a long night for the battling blue and gold if that trend continues…

HINCHCLIFFE IN ORIGIN MIX: The battle for the New South Wales No.9 jersey has been heating up in recent weeks with both Michael Ennis and Danny Buderus staking their claims, but NRL.com understands there is a third serious contender being eyed by selectors – and it’s not Robbie Farah.

The strong form of Melbourne Storm utility forward Ryan Hinchcliffe has him in line for a State of Origin debut this season, with coach Ricky Stuart seriously considering him for a place on the bench. While Ennis and Buderus are both specialist dummy-halves and therefore competing for the one spot, Hinchcliffe provides greater versatility with his ability to play in the back row as well.

The 27-year-old was part of the Blues in Waiting Origin squad camp in January and says the experience had whetted his appetite for the real thing.

“It was a good few days,” Hinchcliffe tells NRL.com. “We had a few past Origin players in to talk about their experiences with Origin and what it meant to play Origin.

“If the opportunity came up it would absolutely be a dream come true and I’d grab it with both hands – but that’s a long way away.

“I tend not to buy into that sort of talk. It’s nice if that’s the case but there is a lot of footy to be played between here and the start of the Origin series. My only focus is to play well at club level and if I do that then I’ve given myself a chance.”

An Origin call-up would pit Hinchcliffe into battle against many of his Melbourne team-mates but he admits it is unlikely he would even be in the frame had he not been punted by Canberra a few years back.

“If I hadn’t left Canberra, who knows what I’d be doing at the moment? Coming to Melbourne, they taught me how to become a first grade player and a consistent first grade player,” he said. “I owe the club a lot.

“Canberra at that stage weren’t too keen to keep me but I got a call from Craig [Bellamy] and thought it was a good opportunity. I came down at the end of 2008 to start the pre-season and ended up playing every game that year and played in the premiership win in 2009. That was a pretty unreal 12 months – it was definitely a good career move for me.”

GILLETT READY FOR DRAGONS: While Hinchcliffe could prove to be the Blues’ Origin bolter, north of the border the battle for spots is only intensifying with Broncos back-rower Matt Gillett the latest to put his hand up. Already talked up as a representative option for both Queensland and Australia this week by team-mate Petero Civoniceva, Gillett believes he is finally displaying the right form to impress Origin selectors after a slow start to the year.

“The last couple of weeks, that’s the standard I need to keep playing,” said Gillett, who was named in the starting side for the first time this season for tonight’s huge clash with the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium.

“I’m over the moon [to be back in the starting XIII]. ‘Hook’ (coach Anthony Griffin) spoke to me the last couple of weeks about getting a starting spot back if I kept going the way I was and I guess he has rewarded me with it this week.”

A member of the Maroons’ Emerging Origin squad for the past two years, Gillett said that making his Queensland debut is his No.1 goal in 2012.

“Obviously I’d like to stay injury free and play consistent footy week in, week out and hopefully if I’m doing that at the right time of the year the rewards will come,” he said.

“It’s definitely my goal but to be doing that I’ve got to be playing well for my team first. If those rewards come I’ll be more than happy to go for it.”

Asked what he thought of his chances given the fierce competition for spots, Gillett said: “The last couple of years I’ve been in the Queensland Emerging squad which is an indicator that they’re watching you. I’ve just got to go off that – that I’m doing the right things to get a look-in.”