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Deja Blue: Origin jersey at stake in Keary's pivotal battle with Wighton

Luke Keary is ready for the Origin halves showdown talk when he faces off Jack Wighton when the Roosters and Raiders lock horns in Thursday's grand final rematch.

Certainly the two sides look evenly placed with the Roosters having six of their premiership-winning squad missing through injuries, retirements and transfers, compared with seven for the Raiders.

Canberra suffered a major blow losing hooker Josh Hodgson to an ACL tear in the 20-14 loss to Storm on Saturday night.

But the respective five-eighth for each side is running hot, which sets up interesting viewing, particularly for NSW coach Brad Fittler.

Even though Wighton played in the centres during the last Origin campaign, he won the Clive Churchill Medal in a losing side on grand final day with his brilliance in the No.6 jersey.

"He's a good kid, a good player," Keary said.

"He just keeps it simple. His strength is his running game and he runs a ball a lot on that left side."

Match Highlights: Cowboys v Roosters

As far as Origin auditions goes, Keary feels like he's been in the wings waiting to come on stage for many years now.

"They've been talking about it for the last five years and I still haven't played, so honestly it's become the norm. People talk about it in the off-season, round one, all year," Keary said.

"I've had it for a number of years now and I know it doesn't really mean anything. It doesn't matter what anyone says because we saw what happened last year with injuries."

Luke Keary streaks away to score against North Queensland.
Luke Keary streaks away to score against North Queensland. ©Dave Acree/NRL Photos

The 28-year-old was the heavily backed favourite for the role in 2019 but missed the series after a heavy concussion.

"So many things can happen. But I think it's good this year that Origin isn't in the season so it's not going to affect club stuff. We can focus 100% on what we're doing here and then Origin comes around.

"It's not distracting or anything like that."

He could be opposing Brisbane-born Roosters teammate Lindsay Collins, who also has an Origin debut firmly in his sights.

Collins has played all eight Roosters games in 2020, tallying an average of 139 metres and more than 30 tackles per game. Against the Broncos and Storm in the past three weeks, he didn't missed a tackle.

The Maroons hopeful ran for over 270 metres in the Suncorp Stadium win over Brisbane and was also notched 164 metres and 21 tackles despite only logging 41 minutes in Thursday's triumph in Townsville over North Queensland.

"Things have been going well so it's definitely something I am considering. I'm trying to put my best foot forward in striving for that," Collins said.

"So it's definitely a goal if you know what I mean. You've got to shoot for the stars and you land on a cloud if you don't make it."

Hodgson leaves field with knee injury

Keary said Hodgson's absence would throw the Green Machine out of kilter because of the hooker's strong links with Wighton and halfback George Williams.

"He controls the game a bit like Cam Smith does out of No.9," Keary said.

"They’ve obviously got two running halves so he's a very important part of their team in terms of controlling the footy game and kicking game.

"What he's done since he's come to the NRL shows he's a quality player. It will be disappointing if he's out for a long period of time."

The Raiders announced on Sunday they were awaiting scans on Hodgson's knee and winger Bailey Simonsson's shoulder.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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