NSW ready to let Dogs loose on Queensland
THE dogs are barking. In-form Bulldogs halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds will be pitched into the State of Origin hot seat against Queensland's Australian pairing of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
While the NSW side will not be officially named until today, social media was awash with tweets that Laurie Daley will have a new set of halves for the series opener at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.
If the mail is right, it means Sydney Roosters teammates Mitchell Pearce, who was dropped at the weekend over a Kings Cross nightclub incident, and James Maloney have been dumped.
Pearce has started in the last 12 Origin games for a 4-8 record and the feeling in his he has had his chance and it's time for a change.
Reynolds produced another magnificent game for Canterbury at the weekend against the Warriors where Hodkinson also stood out.
"I'd be over the moon if it's true," said Reynolds when the Bulldogs arrived back from New Zealand.
Both players are outstanding goalkickers and their combination at the base of the scrum this season with Josh Morris swung the deal. With the creativity of classy hooker Robbie Farah, the brilliance of fullback Jarryd Hayne and the inspirational leadership of power forward Paul Gallen, the Blues may have a set of halves than can finally break the State of Origin drought for long-suffering New South Wale fans.
Bookmakers give the Blues little hope of halting the Maroons magical series streak since 2006, especially with Queensland having the advantage of two home games in 2014.
But despite a mountain of injury issues and the suspension to key enforcer Greg Bird, Daley now has enough game-breakers and match-winners at his disposal in his 17-man squad for the Blues' to claim their first Origin series since 2005.
Hayne is in such devastating form for Parramatta he is the Blues' X-factor along with Farah and Gallen, both club leaders at NRL level.
Daley's props, tipped to be James Tamou and Aaron Woods both have points to prove for different reasons, Tamou because of widespread criticism of his club form for the Cowboys until the last few weeks, and Woods because he felt he let NSW down last year when he let the massive occasion get the better of him.
"I bought into the hype way too much last year," revealed Woods whose early form the Tigers will make it hard for selectors not to pick him.
Gallen could also play prop, depending on Daley's game plan.
An ankle injury to Roosters forward Boyd Cordner will force a late re-think with the likes of Melbourne's Ryan Hoffman, Bulldogs' Aidan Tolman, Manly's Jamie Buhrer and Cowboy Tariq Sims all coming in the mix.