Victor Radley's impressive return from a knee reconstruction has him firming once more for NSW honours and has helped put the Blues brains trust at ease despite a worrying influx of injuries.
Brad Fittler is due to select his Origin I squad at the end of May leading into the June 9 series opener in Melbourne, though injuries to Cameron Murray, Nathan Brown and Zac Lomax across the weekend threaten to deplete his playing stocks.
Confirmation came on Monday that Murray is facing four weeks out due to a syndesmosis tear, and won't play again before the Blues squad is selected after round 12, while star halfback Adam Reynolds (who is facing up to six weeks out with torn thumb ligaments) may yet require surgery.
Brown's suspected hip flexor injury suffered in Parramatta's win over Canterbury is unlikely to sideline him long term.
A dislocated thumb for Lomax, with scans to confirm any further damage on Monday, could rule him out for several games leading into Origin I, while left centre front-runner Latrell Mitchell also has two weeks remaining on the sidelines due to a four-game suspension.
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Fittler and Blues advisor Greg Alexander will step up their selection analysis over the remaining four weeks before picking their game-one squad.
A mouth-watering clash between Brown and Radley when Parramatta host the Roosters this Friday could well be scuppered by the former's injury, but Alexander holds no major concerns over key players being underdone for game one.
"I don't think that's a massive concern," Alexander told NRL.com on Sunday, speaking before Murray's month-long lay-off was confirmed.
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"As long as they get back and get at least one game in before the side's picked, I don't think these injuries will have a major impact whether they get selected or not.
"We've seen both those guys [Murray and Brown] in camp and they've basically got the runs on the board in that respect.
"The 13, that middle is well stocked. There's Isaah Yeo, Victor Radley, Jake Trbojevic, there's half a dozen very good players.
"Back row on the edge is a bit skinnier, there's obviously no Boyd [Cordner] there this year, so that's the other area but as long as those guys can get back on the paddock for at least one game, that won't make a difference."
Among a first-class field of middle forwards, Radley offers a point of difference with his ball-playing and crash-tackling, as well as cover at hooker for 80-minute rake Damien Cook.
The two-time Roosters premiership-winner was in superb touch to start last year and seemingly bound for an Origin debut until suffering a season-ending ACL rupture against the Dragons at Bankwest Stadium.
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He has picked up where he left off since returning for the Roosters in round four, averaging 109 metres and 33 tackles a game, as well as 34 touches each outing to ease the playmaking load on rookie halfback Sam Walker.
"Victor's been in very good form, he looks very good. Absolutely he's in discussions there," Alexander said.
"I thought, and this is just my thoughts, that when he did his knee last year, I thought he was one of the top three or four players in the competition, he started last year that well.
"He's started this season very well too. Coming back from a knee reco, it can take a bit of time, it's a difficult thing to do. But his return has been seamless. He's a big part of how the Roosters are still playing very well despite their other injuries."
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