NSW coach Brad Fittler has confirmed Boyd Cordner won't play Origin this year despite the former captain closing in on an NRL return, opening the door for a couple of Eels to make their debut.
Cordner is expected to return to the paddock next month after missing the first half of the season due to a heavy knock suffered in last November's Ampol State of Origin series opener.
The Roosters have adopted an extra-cautious approach around his return and Fittler, discussing the make-up of his Origin I side at a media conference at NSWRL headquarters on Wednesday, said Cordner would not be considered for selection later in the series.
The likes of Parramatta pair Ryan Matterson and Shaun Lane, Panthers forward Liam Martin and Sharks veteran Wade Graham appear the next available options for the Blues coach.
"I spoke to Boyd and we won't consider Boyd for this year," Fittler said.
"He's looking at [a] round 14-16 [return], but I've spoken to him and I want him to get back on the field [at the Roosters]."
The confirmation of Cordner's unavailability leaves Fittler's back-row stocks light on with Knights forward Tyson Frizell and Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton the only incumbents left from last year's squad.
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Blues duo Cameron Murray and Isaah Yeo can play on an edge but have been predominantly middle players for their club sides this year.
Murray (ankle) could also go into the series opener under an injury cloud with his return-to-play date pencilled in for Origin I.
"There's a few back-rowers down, that's where we're a bit short at the moment," Fittler said.
"There was an indication he (Murray) would be back in round 13 initially, but you never know with that sort of stuff.
"We're still just hoping they come back, but there's some back-rowers out there who can play themselves into a spot.
"Shaun Lane is also doing an incredible job for [the Eels]. He was a great left back-rower and he's changed to the other side and played a bit of middle as well so he's shown his versatility."
Fittler's backline is also a talking point with Tom Trbojevic and Ryan Papenhuyzen on the heels of NSW captain James Tedesco at fullback.
Trbojevic is likely to earn a spot in the centres with Papenhuyzen in line for a possible bench spot.
Latrell Mitchell's return in round 11 against the Panthers in Dubbo could also see the former NSW centre push a last-minute case to earn a recall.
"With less than three weeks to go, there's a lot that can happen," Fittler said.
"It's very exciting that all our players are playing well. We have 18 days to see who is fit because the conversations are around injuries.
"One thing I learned from last year is you go in with fit people."
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