New Blues slot straight in
The three fresh faces in the NSW side for Origin II have taken no time to fit seamlessly into the team with a first light training run completed in Coffs Harbour on Wednesday morning.
Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate, into the side at right centre and right wing respectively to replace the injured Morris twins, have each represented their state previously (albeit in different positions with Dugan at fullback and Hopoate at centre) while seasoned campaigner Greg Bird has been around the NSW set-up for a decade.
After the session, back-rower Ryan Hoffman told media the new right edge had slotted into the team's structures with no difficulty.
"We're not talking about rookies here; these are guys that have played Origin before and they know what it takes," Hoffman said.
"We've got all the confidence in the world in them and from what they showed today they should gain confidence in themselves."
He added the first day hit-out was light but effective.
"It was good, we've got some new players in there in some pretty key positions so we wanted to make sure they knew their role and knew our plays, so it was a nice easy session to get into and simplify what we wanted to achieve."
Halfback Trent Hodkinson, himself headed for just his second game for his state, agreed.
"We had a video session this morning and we're all on the same page now. We had a session out there which looked sharp and they're very confident," he said of the new pair.
"The new right edge we had to focus on a little bit there but we went over a few things we needed to work on. They were good, Duges and Hop, they've obviously been here before. They got right into it and they look sharp."
Speaking after the teams were announced at a members' function at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday, interchange forward Trent Merrin was full of praise for Dugan in his return to the sky blue.
"He's stoked. Once you put on that jersey it's something you want to continue to do, you love it so much you'd do anything to put it on," Merrin said.
"That's a perfect example of Duges going from fullback and playing a few games in the centres, it just shows everyone how much he wants it and it's a credit to himself to be able to excel in a position that he's not used to and to earn that jersey back."
He said Dugan was the type of player who was capable of creating something every time he touched the ball.
"It's great to have him alongside us in this sort of battle. He's a very exciting player and I'm sure he's going to show everyone what he's capable of."
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While the Origin I camp eventually saw fringe players Josh Jackson and Will Hopoate called up to Coffs to take part in the week of training, the second camp has seen the introduction of Cronulla back-rower Wade Graham and promising Raiders centre Jack Wighton, who has had an outstanding season including an excellent performance in the City-Country fixture.
Hoffman said the Wighton and Graham were "very excited" to be a part of the Blues' camp.
"Jack's a good young kid and you can just see his excitement being around the guys, he's bouncing around training and Wade's a great character who plenty of the guys have played with. Having those two guys in camp, a couple of [Origin] rookies, always bring a good fresh feeling."