30 hours ago
Origin trial throws up few answers
It was billed as a genuine NSW selection trial, but it's doubtful Blues selectors learned too much new about players in line for an Origin call-up from Friday night's City-Country clash in Wollongong.
No one starred, no one bombed out, and the players that showed they were ready to play in the toughest arena in the world - like Gold Coast backrower Anthony Laffranchi - well, selectors probably knew he was ready before Friday night's 22-all draw.
Country halfback Brett Finch proved he could again do the job with an astute kicking game which featured only one major blemish, while City and Sydney Roosters halves Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce were effective when given a bit of ball in the second half.
Dumped Test winger Jarryd Hayne bounced back to his best, though most believed it was only a question of time before he would - so just what did NSW selector Laurie Daley take out of the contest?
"I can't really single anyone out, I just think as a group of selectors it will be a tough job because I think plenty of players deserve their position," Daley said.
What of the battle between Finch and Pearce for the Blues No.7 jumper?
"I don't think there's a standout favourite to be honest."
So there we are, the same place we were a week ago which is probably the same place we were a few months ago.
"It was a game that showed plenty of character and there were some good things done from both sides," City coach Tim Sheens said.
"I don't know whether that helps Craig (NSW coach Craig Bellamy) or not, they certainly didn't hurt themselves throwing up a good game of football Saturday night.
"Craig's going to use that and many other criteria to pick his side, but at least in a tough game like that quite a few guys I think threw their name up."
Sheens did push the case for Anasta's return to the sky blue, but his comments perhaps spoke more of the dearth of quality options than the Roosters five-eighth's undeniable claims.
"He's as good an option as they've got in NSW," he said.
"He doesn't miss tackles - he can stand on the edge and tackle anyone - not every half/five-eighth can say that in our game.
"His kicking was strong ... and he's got experience. Without being brilliant, and in saying that no one was brilliant, he did everything asked of him and did it well."
Another who did everything asked of him was Laffranchi, who took being overlooked for the Test team in his stride to put in a man-of the match performance.
Despite being picked at prop, Laffranchi played most of the game wider of the ruck, a move that paid off for him and Country.
"It's always good to get out there with quality players and put you're best foot forward for Origin selection," Laffranchi said.
"You want to be the one who stands up and gets noticed, so I'm really happy with it."