Blues ramp up with opposed session
The NSW Blues upped the ante in their preparation last year with a local Group 9 team being brought into camp to simulate a physical contact session and this year Laurie Daley has gone a step further with the side facing off against genuine NRL talent.
Media were ushered out of training after warm ups at the squad's base at the Coffs Harbour Novotel field on Saturday morning as the NSW starting 13 prepared to face off against a line-up including their own monstrous bench of Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner and Trent Merrin, as well as extended squad members Ryan James, Tyson Frizell and Matt Moylan.
Also on the opposing side was suspended NSW enforcer Greg Bird, who has been in camp with the side for most of the week, and five gun under-20s players including Manly's Tom Trbojevic, Cronulla’s Brad Deitz, Roosters pair Joey Lussick and Paul Momirovski and Penrith’s Brent Naden.
Although the sessions are meant to simulate match conditions, Merrin told media beforehand that they tend to be nowhere near as physical as actual match play.
"They are not too physical. You have to be wary of next week but it’s all about muscle memory of what is going to attack us and how you’re going to defend it."
Blues prop James Tamou said the opposed session signals the squad coming towards the end of the week's short but intense preparation.
"We've only had a couple of days at training so today will mark that we need to get everything right before the opposed session and make sure we're right for the captain's run [on Tuesday in Sydney]."
He added the build-up had been every bit as smooth as last year's successful campaign.
"The training speed's been very quick. I think Mitchell Pearce has been very good and quick, everyone else has been following his lead and I think we're on par for State of Origin next week."
Tamou added the side would need to be on the lookout for in-form Maroons utility Michael Morgan should he get the nod over bench forward Dylan Napa to replace the injured Daly Cherry-Evans on Wednesday night.
Morgan has been in scintillating form for the Cowboys, cashing in on the platform laid by the likes of Tamou, scoring six tries in his past three games including a hat-trick last weekend.
"It is a worry because I know and have seen what he can do. I hope he does get a go because I think he's deserved it. I sent him a message too and said he deserved it. They lose DCE but they haven't got a bad replacement if they're going to go with Michael Morgan."
Tamou also urged all Blues fans to pack ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night to give the side a boost in front of their home crowd.
"Very important [that the game sells out], I think everyone should know that's what got us over the line last year and we definitely need all the help we can get," he said.