With the Blues already in crisis mode, Parramatta has revealed fullback Jarryd Hayne is likely to play the entire Origin series with a bung shoulder.
Hayne hurt his AC joint in the Eels' loss to the Cowboys in Townsville two weeks ago, forcing the probable NSW No. 1 to miss the mid-year Test against New Zealand.
A pain-killing injection allowed him to turn in a match-winning performance against the Sharks on Monday night, but coach Brad Arthur said the shoulder won't fully heal for some time.
"He's a fullback, he doesn't have to make many tackles so it should get better. But we've just got to manage it. He's got to manage it, and he's got to play with pain. It's not anything major – it's a bruise on the shoulder," he said.
With Origin I almost two weeks away, Hayne admitted protecting his shoulder during the win over the Sharks.
"I was probably protecting it a bit out there with a couple of their breaks. It's something I need to get used to," he said.
"It's pretty hard when someone makes a break. Your shoulder feels off and you've got to put your body on the line.
"I actually hadn't done a contact session yet. It was one of those things – we hoped no one made a break. They got a couple of breaks [on Monday] which hopefully doesn't happen next week."
Hayne faces off against NSW hopeful Josh Dugan in Parramatta on Saturday night, but denied it was a final audition for the fullback spot.
"I think the team will already be picked. It's not going to be based on one game," he said. "I guess the bench or a couple of positions will be based on one game, but I think the majority of the team is already going to be picked."
While the selection front took a major hit for NSW coach Laurie Daley last weekend, one positive was the successful return of Cronulla's veteran second-rower Luke Lewis. The 14-game Origin player hadn't played since crashing into the hoardings and injuring his shoulder for the Kangaroos during the World Cup in England.
"I pulled up pretty good, body-wise," Lewis said. "Early in the game I got a little bit of a tweak, just in the lower body somewhere. It'll be alright, it's just getting the cobwebs out. I didn't feel too tired or anything like that. I felt pretty good in defence, my shoulders felt comfortable.
"Just getting the footwork and the timing back of getting the ball on the advantage line I found a little bit different tonight, only because I haven't played in a while."
With Daley due to name his team next Tuesday, Lewis thinks his return might have come too late.
"I'd love to play there. But I don't know if I've left my run too late or what the go is. I've just got to worry about playing footy here and getting everything right. Just keep working on my fitness. Get my timing back and hopefully next week," he said.
"We'll see how it goes. Hopefully I have a good game next week against the Tigers and we'll go from there."
Daley could be forced into selecting the experienced Lewis though with second-rower Greg Bird contesting a dangerous throw charge that could see him rubbed out for almost the entire Origin period.
Hayne weighed in on the debate – calling the decision to challenge the grading a "tough" call.
"It's been a whirlwind bloody 48 hours. I seen Birdy's one and straight away I rolled me head. I thought 'No'. But it's a tough decision to come out today. It's a grade three and if he fights it he'll miss Origin II. It's a tough gig. There's going to be a lot of headache the next couple of weeks," he said.
"You never want to see anything like that and I guess it's tough too because when you put players in that position, you think teammates have got a gold of the upper body and when a teammate lets go, you don't plan for that.
"I think that was the case with Birdy's. But at the end of the day it was a dangerous position and they're very touchy on the dangerous position as of late."