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Panthers miffed at Origin snub
Penrith was reeling from what it believed to be a State of Origin snub from both NSW and Queensland rugby league selectors.
Penrith football manager Mick Leary was livid after incumbent Test backrower Trent Waterhouse missed out on NSW selection to shock bench pick Steve Simpson.
And Panthers teammate Rhys Wesser lost his Queensland No.1 jersey to Melbourne's Billy Slater for the May 25 series opener at Brisbane.
NSW selectors also bucked a trend by not naming a prop on the bench, opting instead for three backrowers in a major blow to Penrith and City frontrower Joel Clinton.
Waterhouse's snubbing continued an unfortunate trend at Penrith.
Just like an unlucky Clinton last year, Waterhouse missed out on NSW selection after not playing in the City-Country trial because he was ineligible as a Test player.
Incumbent Test hooker Luke Priddis also missed out on NSW selection after the successful return from injury by Newcastle and Blues skipper Danny Buderus.
Leary thought Wesser was an Origin "certainty" but said: "We could blow up but it would not achieve anything.
"We are very disappointed that our players were not selected.
"It is really hard to just talk about one player without leaving one of the others out.
"I really thought that he (Wesser) was pretty much a certainty.
"(But) Queensland have got their selectors and it is their job to make those calls.
"To their credit they (Qld selectors) called him at home and spoke to him last night."
Penrith only boasted winger Luke Rooney (NSW) and prop Ben Ross (Queensland) in Origin teams on Tuesday.
Leary said Queensland selectors rang Wesser on Monday night to tell him he had been dumped for Slater.
"I thought he would be in for sure," said NSW winger Rooney, who admitted to feeling "lonely" as the only Panther in the Blues team.
"Rhys has been playing good for us and has been our best player this season.
"I think he is just unbelievable. I have never seen a player that can get the ball and do the sort of stuff he does.
"He is the best athlete I have ever seen, he is just a freak.
"But I suppose it is a good thing for us (NSW) that he isn't there."
Leary said NSW selectors couldn't blame 2003 premiers the Panthers' inconsistent season start (12th; 4-6 record) on so many selection omissions after Newcastle's Simpson was named on the Blues bench.
Simpson was not even named in the initial 30-strong squad but earned Origin selection for the first time since 2002 after starring for the only win-less NRL team - Newcastle.
"We have only won four games and our form as a club and team is not great, I think that has taken a lot into consideration," said Leary.
"But then again, (Steve) Simpson is in from Newcastle."
NSW selector Bob McCarthy said of Waterhouse: "He's a bit unlucky but we just thought Simpson adds more in the front row.
"We know Trent played for Australia six or seven weeks ago, but the way...(Simpson) has been playing he covers those two (forward) spots for us quite adequately."
NSW coach Ricky Stuart kept a glimmer of hope for players who missed out today.
"There's the odd person who can come from outside that 30 (later in the best of three series) - those people know they are on borderline," he said.
"Last year we used 28 to 29 players, this is team one and there's two games after this.
"It's going to be a very, very tough, arduous campaign."