Laurie Daley admits he tossed and turned over who to choose as the NSW five-eighth, but James Maloney’s calming influence on Mitchell Pearce was the reason for his selection over incumbent No 6 Todd Carney.
Maloney and Blues halfback Pearce have formed a fine understanding at the Sydney Roosters since his arrival at the club from the Warriors this year and Daley said the success of the pair together in the first half of the season won him over.
‘‘What swayed it in James’ favour is the control Mitchell has been showing at the Roosters this year with James in that team,’’ Daley said.
‘‘I just think he needed a calmer, more composed player alongside him. I am not saying Todd isn’t, but Mitchell at the moment seems to have found his rhythm and for me that is very important.’’
With Carney not playing until Monday, Daley made up his mind early last week to go with Maloney, but still had to convince himself he was making the right decision by watching the Roosters against Melbourne on Saturday.
Although they went down 26-18 to the premiers, he was pleased with what he saw from the 26-year-old.
‘‘I had Maloney in mind from the start of the week, given that I knew Todd couldn’t have pushed his case any further,’’ he said.
‘‘I really wanted to be clear on where I was heading before this week’s football.‘‘But I still wanted to be sure even though I’d made my decision that everything was OK and after watching his game last night everything was.’’
Maloney is one of three debutants in the side, with Daley keeping faith with 11 of the side that lost 21-20 in the decider against Queensland in Brisbane last year.
Canberra’s Blake Ferguson and Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita are the other new faces.Outside back Ferguson has pipped prolific South Sydney veteran Nathan Merritt for a spot, with the 29-year-old looking destined to never play for the Blues despite having 149 NRL tries to his name.
Daley, who coached Merritt in the Indigenous All Stars team, said it was a tough decision, but the 191cm and 103kg Ferguson had the size to cope with Greg Inglis on the right side of the field.
‘‘I would have loved to have found a position for Nathan,’’ he said.‘‘But Blake has been playing good football for the Raiders and is a guy that can handle a lot of positions.
‘‘On that right side we need some big bodies particularly with Inglis coming down that side of the field.
‘‘We need to match their size and that is one of the things I like about Blake.’’
Melbourne back-rower Ryan Hoffman is recalled for the first time since 2008 and Daley said his inside knowledge of Queensland’s big three of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk was a factor in his selection.
‘‘He’s another big game player who’s played Origin before, won grand finals and comes back in as a better player than when he last played,’’ he said.
‘‘He knows what it takes to win, knows some of the key players in the opposition and that will be invaluable to us.’’
NSW team: Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Blake Ferguson, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, James Tamou, Robbie Farah, Paul Gallen (capt), Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird. Interchange: Anthony Watmough, Kurt Gidley, Andrew Fifita, Trent Merrin.
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