Blake Ferguson's try-scoring drought prompted betting markets on when the Eels flyer would finally cross the stripe, but it's his work without the ball that threatens his NSW Origin spot.
Blues coach Brad Fittler conceded this week that Ferguson is under mounting pressure to hold his spot on the NSW flank.
How Ferguson's finals form stacks up against Roosters tall timber Daniel Tupou and Canberra young gun Nick Cotric will prove critical after Wests Tigers' David Nofoaluma – arguably the best winger this season – was unlucky to miss out on a call-up to Fittler's extended squad.
Ferguson's 16-game try drought earlier this year had him paying $17 to go the entire season without a four-pointer until he scored against the Warriors a month ago.
But Fittler's chief concern around his form is the 30-year-old's defensive combination with Waqa Blake.
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An NRL.com Stats analysis reveals that Blake and Ferguson rank as the third-worst centre-wing pairing for try causes, with 38 four-pointers attributed to them across the 20-game NRL season.
More than one player can be attributed with a "try cause" on the same play, be it with a missed tackle or poor read, so that figure doesn't necessarily mean Blake and Ferguson are responsible for 38 separate tries.
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Cowboys Kyle Feldt and Esan Marsters (48 combined try causes) and Nofoaluma and Joey Leilua at the Tigers (45 try causes) outrank the Parramatta pair as edge combinations.
Rushing up and in has exposed Blake and Ferguson on seven occasions this season, while the former's six missed tackles leading to tries were cause for concern when Fittler spoke of the latter's Origin chances.
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"They've let a lot of tries in, and for Parramatta to go further they need to be good, especially [Ferguson] and Waqa together," Fittler said.
"As a player, you never take it for granted that you're chosen [for Origin]. Really, all the players are under pressure.
"And that’s all we keep asking. Keep proving to your fans that you’re fighting for the right cause.
"That doesn’t always mean running over someone. Sometimes it means working together with someone.
"And Blake and Waqa, they could communicate better. There's a lot of tries going down that side."
While Ferguson's three-try season is the first time in a decade he hasn't cracked double figures, his average of 157 running metres is on par with last year and point to plenty of work starting off Parramatta's sets.
Any defensive frailties are sure to go under the microscope on Saturday when Parramatta face Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.
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The qualifying final clash pits Ferguson up against NSW teammate and Storm speedster Josh Addo-Carr, who has rattled up 14 tries in his last 13 games.
Elsewhere in Fittler's Origin mix, Dragons youngster Zac Lomax is still in line for a call-up to the NSW extended squad if Tom Trbojevic's injury battles rule him out.
Fittler dismissed suggestions that a recent shoulder issue, after three months out with a hamstring issue, should see Trbojevic brush the Origin campaign to focus on his recovery and Manly's 2021 preparations.
NSW doctor Nathan Gibbs holds the same role for the Sea Eagles and will guide Trbojevic's recovery before Fittler's squad assembles on October 9.
Manly coach Des Hasler has said multiple times he has no issue with Trbojevic playing Origin if he's fully fit.
Fittler also lauded the versatility of Panthers teen Stephen Crichton – "he's played fullback and [Penrith] have put him back there at different stages and played him in different positions" – as he looms as another backline option.