Gallen: Every player must earn NSW jersey
It's only mid-March but that has not stopped Paul Gallen from already igniting the Origin fire.
The Blues skipper was at the Eureka Tower in Melbourne on Tuesday to help launch the 2015 State of Origin series and used the occasion to share his thoughts on Rabbitohs and potential NSW five-eighth Luke Keary.
Ipswich-born Keary was caught at the centre of Origin controversy last year after the ARL Commission ruled him a New South Welshman under updated eligibility guidelines.
Gallen was full of praise for the 21-year-old's Round 2 performance against the Roosters that saw him record two try assists, a line break and 116 meters but after being reminded of the controversy the Blues veteran quickly changed his tune.
"To be honest it disappoints me," Gallen said of Keary's reported desire to represent Queensland.
"I'm not having a go at him but from the time I was born and knew about rugby league you are taught to hate Queensland. Gordon Tallis was one of my favourite players but when he put that Maroons jumper on I never liked him.
"I think we've got to get over that, we saw it happen with Greg Inglis and that's disappointing but certainly in the future if you are born in NSW you should learn to love NSW."
Keary moved from Ipswich to Sydney with his family at the age of 10, where he played the majority of junior football.
Given his hot start to the season and the injury to incumbent Blues five-eighth Josh Reynolds it could make for an interesting conversation between captain and rookie should Keary get a debut Origin call-up this year.
Gallen also endorsed Josh Dugan as the man to step into the Blues No.1 jersey following the defection of Jarryd Hayne.
Dugan, who is currently sidelined with an ankle injury, has five Origin games under his belt and was named at centre last year.
With nine weeks until Laurie Daley announces his first Origin team, Gallen was adamant there should be no guarantees despite last year's heroic efforts.
"You can't have played last year and just expect to walk back into the team and that goes for every single person," Gallen said.
"It's a special thing to be playing State of Origin and jerseys should not be given away lightly to anyone. No matter what your name is and what you've done in the past you've got to be performing at a certain level to play in this arena."
For the first time in 10 years NSW will head into State of Origin looking to retain the shield rather than win it.
After having to endure eight years of Maroons torment it is a change the Blues captain is happy to see and he now hopes to inflict a similar pain on his most bitter of rivals.
"That is the challenge facing us, to win two in a row. We've got to be better than what we were last year," Gallen said.
"The future of NSW looks really bright with a lot of really good young players coming through. Hopefully we can get it done this year and with those young guys coming through hopefully we can go on a bit of a March ourselves.
"My main focus is obviously this year. Queensland are certainly going to get better and we have to get better ourselves."
Origin I kicks off on May 27 at ANZ Stadium before the series heads to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first time in 18 years.
Tickets for Origin III at Suncorp Stadium on July 8 went on sale Tuesday.