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Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston says new NSW halves pairing Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds have earned their call-up with good form for the Bulldogs.
They've been a cornerstone of the Bulldogs' impressive start to the season and as a result Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston is backing the rookie NSW halves combination of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson to handle the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Origin arena.

With the Bulldogs flying high at the top of the NRL ladder after eight wins from 10 starts, including seven victories on the trot, it was no surprise that NSW selectors took a gamble on naming a new halves pairing after off-field incidents and poor form contributed to the axing of incumbent pair Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.

While Thurston, a veteran of 27 Origins, was surprised that the Blues dropped the Roosters' pair, he supports the notion of picking players that are in-form and confident, such as the Canterbury pairing of Reynolds and Hodkinson.

"It just goes to show why the Dogs are leading the competition at the moment. Those two boys are in some great form and the selectors are obviously thinking about the future," Thurston said.

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"I know [by] playing against them that they are very confident in their ability and what they've done in the past.

"I don't see them choking in this arena at all. [But] it's very tough to come in and to choose new halves in this arena."

One key statistical area that the Bulldogs' pairing are trumping Pearce and Maloney in is with their try assists tally, with Reynolds and Hodkinson combining to create 16 tries this season, compared to 11 for the Roosters' pair.

However, when analysing line-break assists the Roosters and Bulldogs halves are poles apart, with 23 assists between the Bondi boys and only 15 for the Canterbury pairing.

Despite being a little stunned that NSW haven't stuck to their tried and tested halves pair, Thurston isn't fazed, insisting that the Maroons need to get their own combinations in order before they can start worrying about the opposition.

"I'm very surprised [at Pearce's omission]. Obviously 'Pearcey' has been an integral part of their team for a number of years now," he said.

"The selectors are obviously going in a different direction but for us it's about getting our own backyard right and doing what we do best.

"This arena brings out the best in you and no doubt it'll bring the best out of those two boys."

Meanwhile, Thurston's Origin preparation for next Wednesday's opener will be slightly different from previous years as he deals with the absence of his regular roommate, injured Broncos back-rower Sam Thaiday, who was ruled out of Origin contention last week due to an ongoing calf complaint.

"I'm a little bit sad because he's my roomie," he said.

"Not seeing him for the first time is different because he's always been a part of my preparation.

"I've got big Matty Scott now and he snores a fair bit, so I can't wait until Sammy gets back."

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