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3 days ago
The ace up Brett Finch's sleeve for the NSW No.7 jumper may just be in his Country pack.
The Parramatta star on Tuesday admitted playing behind a virtual international forward pack in Friday's annual City-Country fixture could give him an edge in the hotly contested battle for the NSW halfback spot.
"I'm behind a pretty good pack of forwards ... it certainly wouldn't hurt my chances," Finch said as both teams for the opening representative match of 2008 went into camp today ahead of their clash in Wollongong.
While Mark O'Meley will be the lone international forward in City's pack, Country half Finch will play behind four Kangaroos (Buderus, Nathan Hindmarsh, Andrew Ryan and Craig Fitzgibbon), as well as NSW prop Brett White and Anthony Laffranchi, arguably the form forward of the NRL.
"It's a pretty good footy team," added Finch, capped three times for NSW.
"We've obviously got the Blues captain Bedsy (Buderus) and a lot of those guys that are going to feature in the NSW team.
"I think in games like this you can do more harm than good, at times with your chances, so you've just got to make sure you put your best foot forward and play well.
"You've got so many quality players around, you don't need to overplay things because these are the top players in the competition."
After weeks of speculation, the Blues halfback picture is expected to become much clearer on Friday when four of the prime contenders for the most talked about position in this year's State of Origin series feature in City-Country.
Finch will go head-to-head with Sydney Rooster and City debutant Mitchell Pearce at halfback, with Canberra's Todd Carney to partner Finch in the Country halves and Brisbane's Peter Wallace named on the City bench.
NSW selectors will be hoping a clear candidate for the Blues job will emerge from the match - with Finch and Pearce the two standout contenders.
It would then likely be a case of selectors going with either the City-Country halfback winner, or Newcastle utility Kurt Gidley, who has been named on the bench for Australia's Test against New Zealand on May 9.
Manly's Matt Orford would seem out of the frame for Game I at least after being overlooked for the City team.
Pearce, son of Test and NSW great Wayne Pearce, said he had already turned to his father for advice ahead of his first senior rep game.
"He told me a couple of things last night," said the 19-year-old, who will have the advantage of playing beside Roosters clubmate Braith Anasta in the halves on Friday.
"I wasn't expecting to be picked. It's kind of a bit of a shock to make the side, but now that I'm in I'm going to be doing my best.
"You always like to win, so I'm not going to go out there and play ordinary.
"Finchy's pretty experienced. They've been tossing his name up, but I want to win and do my best, so I want to make the (NSW) side."
City coach Tim Sheens said he would work out during the week how best to use both Pearce and Wallace, with the likelihood of one of them spending time at hooker.
Wallace said he didn't expect to get a rep call up so soon after only emerging as a regular first-grade player last year, putting down much of his rise this season to his summer move from Penrith to the Broncos.
"I think going to the Broncos sort of helped me," said the 22-year-old.
"Being coached by Wayne (Bennett) and having quality players like Darren (Lockyer), Justin Hodges and Karmichael (Hunt) around you, they're going to help your game.
"I had a chat to Wayne last night ... he told me just relax, don't take it too seriously, don't think about it too much, and just enjoy it really."