Lichaa flies under the radar into Origin contention
NSW Blues skipper Paul Gallen recently suggested there was no point in replacing Robbie Farah because there was no one knocking down the door to take his spot.
That may be the case, but when the 32-year-old Blues hooker does decide to call time on his soon to be 16-game State of Origin career, someone will need to step up to fill the void.
Nathan Peats and Mitch Rein have been touted as potential replacements, but Bulldogs No.9 Michael Lichaa – who is younger than the aforementioned pair – looms as the dark horse to snare the jersey.
Formerly at the Sharks, Lichaa moved to the Bulldogs in 2015 in a virtual straight swap with Michael Ennis; a move that has worked out well for both men.
Approaching his 50th NRL game this weekend, Lichaa has gone from a running threat to a more controlled dummy-half under the tutelage of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler.
While Peats appears the front-runner to take Farah's spot if and when he decides to bid farewell to the Origin scene, there is nothing to suggest the Junior Kangaroo couldn't do the job for the Blues if called upon.
"It's every kid's dream to play for NSW one day," Lichaa said.
"Someone's going to be knocking on the door in the next few years when Robbie finishes.
"I'm probably a bit younger than Nathan Peats and whoever else is there, but hopefully if I can have a big 18 months, I can throw my name in there, but I've got a long way to go."
It wouldn't be the first time Lichaa pulled on a Blues jersey after the 22-year-old represented his state in 2012 and 2013 in under-20s Origin.
Boyd Cordner, David Klemmer and Dylan Walker have all graduated from those sides into the current NSW system, and Lichaa says he would love to join them one day.
"Getting to play the first year that there was ever an under-20s [Origin] was awesome," the Bulldogs rake said.
"To play with Boyd Cordner and players like that, and seeing how professional they were, was an awesome experience. Hopefully in the next few years I can get [back] to the higher level, but I've got a way to go before that."
While happy to be mentioned as a future Blue, Lichaa was full of praise for the man he could one day replace.
"Robbie has been awesome for NSW and I definitely think he deserves to be there," he said.
"At the Tigers this year he's playing a different role, and that's why people are saying he's not running it as much, but that's the style they've asked him to play. It's not really his fault.
"It's not always your style of play that the team decides to play. Everyone knows what Robbie can do with the ball; it's just the club that he's at have a different style."
Bulldogs teammate Josh Reynolds is no stranger to the Origin arena having represented the Blues four times including all three games in the victorious 2014 campaign.
The Canterbury five-eighth said Lichaa sometimes flew "under the radar" in a star-studded Bulldogs line-up, but is confident his defence would make him the perfect fit for Origin.
"Origin is defence orientated and he makes 50-odd [tackles] a week," Reynolds said.
"I feel him and Robbie are the same sort of players. Lichaa is very creative and I feel sometimes people don't realise [that].
"When he was at the Sharks, he was such a running hooker and he's come to the Bulldogs and people are questioning what's going on. He's sticking to the structure and he's doing what he has to do for the team. That comes down to not being greedy.
"I feel if his name was tossed up, he definitely wouldn't let anyone down."