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Jarryd Hayne's form in 2014 was arguably better than that he showed during the Eels' devastating run to the Grand Final in 2009.
Brooks should be NSW halfback - if not for the Mullen Rule

Luke Brooks should be the NSW halfback – partnered with the player whose personal Origin fate means he won’t be: Jarrod Mullen.

By turning in a match-winning hand of three try assists against the Sharks, Tigers ace Brooks again showed that at 19 years of age he is already the most creative No.7 option for the Blues.

Sure, carving up a battling Sharks team is no true audition for facing the might of Queensland. Yet Brooks has a lovely flair to his game, whether it’s with a perfectly timed pass or an unpredictable kick, which always threatens to produce points.
Honestly, how many other NSW halfback options can claim to have that critical quality?

The playmaking situation NSW has found itself in is ugly. Thanks to the Mitchell Pearce Kings Cross masterstroke, we’re down to an 11th-hour lucky dip between the incumbent halves pairing from the Roosters, Rabbitohs Adam Reynolds and John Sutton, and Bulldogs Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds.

As if you needed reminding, Queensland will simply pick two champions in Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, and induce retching south of the border by picking rugby league’s second-best halfback Daly Cherry-Evans as a lightly used bench utility.

Back to Brooks – it’s spot-on not to pick him this year. It’s too early and NSW – let alone the Tigers – can ill afford for him to suffer a spirit-crushing experience on the biggest stage of all.

Mullen played his lone Origin game as a rawhide 20-year-old halfback in 2007, dropped after one performance in which he was simply overawed and outclassed.

The fallout – Mullen took many years to get over his failure and for all his quality, arguably never became the player we all thought he would be – has proved intriguing. As a result of the selection misstep, there has been zero campaigning for Brooks to be pitched into Origin this season.

The big thing for Brooks, still building his body up from a teenage 85kg, is strengthening his defence, given he is good for about five missed tackles per game. The self-confidence, the composure, the playmaking ability – there appears to be no issues in those departments.

Just think how well the Brooks short-passing and grubber assault would complement the Mullen long passing and kicking game. It would provide the Blues with genuine variety and game-winning strike power out of the halves.

Who knows what pairing will be thrown against Queensland as the Blues attempt to stave off a ninth season of defeat. For Brooks-Mullen, aka Next Joey-Next Joey, there’s always next year.

Hayne Plane flies back to 2009

How long rugby league fans have waited for this season, in which Jarryd Hayne finally reprises that freakish 2009 caper.
Hayne in his Dally M-winning season was Billy Slater rolled into Andrew Johns morphed with Sonny Bill Williams. The form explosion was fleeting, but it was one of the most magnificent things ever witnessed on a footy field.

The superstar Parramatta Eels fullback has surged into the Dally M lead after destroying the Dragons on Saturday and is so very close to his other-worldly level of ’09. He has to be named at fullback for NSW and it’s the one thing that makes you think the Blues might just give Queensland a run for their money despite enormous odds against.

J-Moz the quiet superstar

Few people foresaw Josh Morris getting a game in the Trans-Tasman Test, yet he played superbly for the Kangaroos.

His incumbency as a NSW centre has slipped the mind of plenty in the annual rush to dish out Origin Bolter tags. He’s been one of the Blues’ best players for the past couple of Origin series, both in attack and in his superb efforts to contain the virtually uncontainable Greg Inglis.

And how about that tackle on Sunday, an absolutely sensational, gut-busting effort to wrench speedy Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson into touch inches from the try line and salvage for the Bulldogs yet another win? It was all class.

Josh Morris will be among the first picked for NSW because, as Dogs captain Michael Ennis put it, he’s “a special player”. With the glut of superstars we enjoy in the NRL, perhaps he doesn’t always get his due recognition as such, but he’s a cracker.

Benji wasn’t that bad

What did you really expect? A guy who had been out of form for two years and recently ended a failed switch to rugby union was never going to run out in his NRL comeback and kill it.

But did Benji really stink as badly as some of the analyses have suggested? Nah.

The no-look pass that put Mike Cooper over for a disallowed try looked as though it was flat, not forward, and should have got the green light. His audacious kick from a tap nearly resulted in points and showed his sense of the outrageous hasn’t evaporated.

He defended pretty well for a guy with no match fitness that has copped grief for his tackling throughout his career. So he made a few errors, was generally rusty and didn’t immediately click with Gareth Widdop, with whom he shared a single training session in the lead-up? No massive shock.

He copped a quick reminder that league fans are hard markers, with the chant of “Benji” ringing around Pirtek Stadium during his toil. Are we really going to death-ride the guy? If you aren’t prepared to dub him an all-time great, you’ve at least got to admit he’s fun to watch and his enthusiasm for his comeback should produce a few moments of magic.

RTS is a freak

The left-foot step put on by Roosters winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the build-up to Daniel Mortimer’s late try against the Cowboys on Saturday was utterly incredible.

A feint left, another feint in mid-air, then an explosion to the right with poor old Ethan Lowe left clutching at thin air as RTS sets off to put in a grubber for the four-pointer. Amazing. Absolutely unreal from the budding Kiwi superstar, no matter how many times you watch it.

Origin Watch

NSW: Boyd Cordner, Andrew Fifita, Greg Bird gone. Robbie Farah very much in. Daniel Tupou might just jag a debut on the wing but Will Hopoate has made a mighty impressive late bid for a recall in his comeback season. Even though John Sutton’s kicking game wasn’t flash for Souths against the Storm, his running game looked in good order – possible bench spot. Luke Lewis is still feeling his way back for the Sharks but the Blues need him given the casualties.

Queensland: Sam Thaiday is out injured and Roosters back-rower Aidan Guerra in for his well-earned debut. The make-up of the bench will be interesting, with the likes of Josh Papalii, Chris McQueen and Dave Taylor in fairly dusty form. In superb news for the Maroons, Billy Slater is back in crazy form right alongside Cronk, Smith, Thurston, Scott, Gillett....

Coach Watch

They’re back: The Price is Wrong and Oust Doust signs were seen outside St George Leagues Club yesterday. That will happen when you lose six of your last seven games after declaring things will be different this season. Steve Price looked sadly bereft of ideas after the Dragons’ loss to the Eels, which rarely spells anything but doom. Ricky Stuart just looked angry after his Raiders lost their third game in a row. So very angry.

Twitter: @hdelbs
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