Blues get jump on 2016 Origin campaign
It may be a week before Christmas in 2015 but Blues coach Laurie Daley says preparations are all set for the 2016 State of Origin series, with an emerging Blues camp scheduled and training facilities and structures locked away.
Speaking at The Star casino for the launch of the team's 2016 jersey, Daley wouldn't be drawn into selections – including the possibility, publicly mooted by Phil Gould, of using Manly recruit Dylan Walker at five-eighth.
Referring to Queensland's uncertainty over who their next coach would be, Daley said his own side's initial preparations were basically finished.
"We've got everything done now... we're lucky. We know we're [training] at Coffs Harbour, we know all our commercial arrangements and what we have to do, how we're going to train, all those things have been locked in," Daley said.
"Whereas a new coach might come in and might want to change where they're training. They might want to go to a different venue. It's just logistics you've got to try and work out and try to get everything in place."
The traditional emerging Blues camp is also set to return, he added.
"We'll have an emerging Blues camp in January and get some guys together we think may be able to play a part in Origin in 2016. That's always exciting and once January rolls around you're back into it and then you've got February with the Nines and All stars, and trials and then the season is upon us so you sit back and watch and see who's available when it comes time to select the team," he said.
There had also been a catch up recently between those involved in the most recent series and Daley said the players were in good spirits despite a comprehensive loss in the 2015 decider.
"We caught up just for a Christmas party so that was good. All the boys turned up, they were in good spirits after a long year and into their pre season. I think they've all been training hard by the sound of things. They all seemed to have upped the ante from the last year or so. They're all into it."
In response to Panthers supremo Phil Gould – who is also the most successful Blues coach in Origin history – suggesting Manly's recruitment of Souths centre Dylan Walker (with plans to play him at five-eighth) had handed Daley a solution to his ongoing halves conundrum, Daley said it was too early to comment.
"I think Dylan has obviously got to find his home or get himself settled and play some good footy," Daley said.
"He's a guy that was in our camp last year, he was 18th man before Game II so he's always been put on the radar and played for Australia the previous year. As far as five-eighth I think we've just got to let him settle in and see how he goes before we start discussing whether he's in contention or not."
Daley said his only advice to Walker would be to stick to his own style.
"I think Dylan has just got to be Dylan. His skill set is he likes to run the footy and when he does run the footy he's quite dangerous so as a five-eighth you don't want to see that taken away from him and he starts to think he needs to become a ball player," Daley said.
"He's just got to play to his strengths and that will shine through with Manly and if they're playing well we'll see what happens then. First of all he's playing in a different position so he just needs to be comfortable and get himself into the groove. It's a different position than centre."
Daley himself was an outstanding centre and five-eighth for NSW in his playing days and said it was no easy switch, but backed Walker to make it a success.
"After playing in the centres you get a greater appreciation of what centres are looking for when you move into five-eighth. That will be a good thing for him. But he's a talent, he's only 21, 22 so it's a different challenge for him and a different group of boys so he might find it a little bit difficult at the start.
"It will take him a while to feel comfortable at 6 but I'm sure given that he's had some experience there in the junior programs, he'll pick it up quite easily."