NSW skipper Boyd Cordner admits to being "hurt" by Phil Gould's calls for him to be axed as the numbers suggest he has enough runs on the board to lead Brad Fittler's new-look Blues.
As the most successful coach in State of Origin history with six series wins in charge of NSW, Gould didn't miss in his critique of Cordner's 2018 form and contribution at rep level in the past, declaring the Roosters star has "stagnated over the last two or three years" on Channel Nine's 100% Footy.
Cordner concedes he was slow off the blocks across the first month of the year after a long 2017 campaign that ended with a man-of-the-match performance in the World Cup final.
But with his form improving as the Tricolours come into their own, Cordner admits Gould's assessment stung.
"You're not just going to brush over and pretend it doesn't because the stature of [Gould], it does hurt a bit," Cordner said.
"But you can't dwell on it or think about it too much because you just end up doing your own head in.
"He's entitled to his opinion, he's a big personality in the game. I'm confident and comfortable in who I am as a player and what I've accomplished.
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"At the end of the day, I am NSW captain as it stands now and I'm never satisfied with where I am as a player.
"I'm always trying to be better - a better person, a better player, a better leader here at the Roosters."
Blues coach Brad Fittler is expected to stick with the incumbent captain but bring in as many as 10 debutants for the Holden State of Origin series opener at the MCG on June 6.
Gould's critique of Cordner centred around what he suggests is a lack of variety in the 25-year-old forward's attacking arsenal, despite forging a reputation as one of best edge runners in the Telstra Premiership in recent years.
"He runs the one line, at the one time, every time," Gould said on Monday night.
"There’s nothing varied about his play, he never passes the ball. He’s willing, he’s got a great constitution, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s very popular among the playing group … but as far as a game breaker and someone who in Origin can provide that moment that might win you a game, I don’t think he’s going that well at the moment. Tariq Sims is going by far the better."
Cordner only broke his 2018 try-scoring drought last week against Brisbane and is yet to record a line break since Mitchell Pearce's departure to Newcastle, ending one of the best edge combinations in the club arena.
While his familiarity with fellow Origin contenders Latrell Mitchell and Luke Keary would enhance Cordner's chances of being retained, his 2018 work rate also rates well among those being considered for back-row berths.
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With 120 metres and 27 tackles a game for the Roosters this year, Cordner stacks up well enough against the likes of Sims (114 metres and 21 tackles) and Angus Crichton (125 metres and 36 tackles), as well as the members of last year's NSW pack.
Though Cordner churned through more minutes than most in the 2017 series loss, his 151 average running metres were second only to prop David Klemmer (172m), and comfortably ahead of fellow edge men Tyson Frizell (66m), Wade Graham (67m) and Josh Jackson (48m).
His 87 tackles for the three games were also on par with Jackson's efforts and behind only hooker Nathan Peats (150 tackles). Cordner's 57 decoys and support plays were also the most of anyone in sky blue.
Fittler will name his squad for Origin I next Monday night at a NSWRL gala event at The Star.
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Tickets available at NRL.com/tickets.