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4 days ago
Queensland prop Shane Webcke has warned teammates to expect something "pretty special" from rookie Brett Finch, thrust into the NSW State of Origin side as sixth choice halfback.
Finch will play tonights second Origin game in enemy territory with just two training sessions with the Blues' and knowing he rates sixth in the selectors' pecking order.
With champion Andrew Johns and first game halfback Craig Gower both unavailable, NSW selectors handed the Origin No.7 jumper to Brett Kimmorley last week.
But when he broke down with a hamstring tear and when both Trent Barrett and Matt Orford were ruled out with injuries, Finch was finally confirmed as Kimmorley's replacement.
Webcke said while it may appear NSW had suffered a blow, often bringing players into a team late could have the opposite affect.
"The truth is you always worry a little when they bring in a player," he said.
"It's been said Finchy is the fourth or fifth choice at halfback and people will read that whichever way they want.
"(But) players, once they are under that kind of pressure can tend to produce something pretty special and that could be the case with him."
Webcke said Finch's selection further enhanced the Roosters connection with Brad Fittler back playing five-eighth and Anthony Minichiello chiming in from fullback.
"They obviously play very well together. They haven't lost a lot and they've gained a little bit of that unknown quantity that can be quite dangerous," he said.
Webcke's insight proved on the money before the first Origin in Sydney when he warned the Blues' telephone sex scandal would steel them on the field.
"It was talked about before the first game NSW being inexperienced and all their problems and they still beat us," he said.
"The disruption they've had during this camp really is quite minuscule compared to the first, so you would have to think that their preparations have been better and they'll be better for it."
Webcke however was amused by reports that NSW coach Phil Gould had assigned recalled Sharks prop Jason Stevens to shadow him during Wednesday night's game.
Webcke and Stevens have been protagonists for several seasons and as recently as two weeks ago locked horns when Cronulla upset Brisbane in a NRL game which more than likely earned Stevens his first Origin jumper since 2001.
"We're a couple of old boilers together," laughed Webcke.
"I wouldn't think I'd be high on his (Gould's) list of priorities.
"I'm more or less a plodder, not a Darren Lockyer or someone you'd think would be worthy of targeting."
"I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him (Stevens) but it's a bit of a silly statement really considering not one or two players even really follow each other around the field.
"I'll probably get knocked over more times by his mate (Mark) O'Meley than him."
Webcke expects to be targeted by a NSW pack which smashed him in gang tackles every time he charged into the fray in Sydney where he played with a painful rib injury.
Webcke admitted the pressures of the captaincy were detrimental to his performance in Sydney because he felt he had to lead from the front more.
"I probably pushed a few passes and made a few errors I normally would not make purely because I really wanted to play well," he said.
"That was a mistake."