Hayne, Gallen named in NSW side for decider
Two moon boots, one dodgy hamstring and a recalled Scotsman - welcome to the bedraggled outfit NSW coach Laurie Daley hopes can bring down the greatest dynasty in State of Origin history.
Daley on Sunday took a punt on injured trio Jarryd Hayne, Greg Bird and skipper Paul Gallen, with all three named in a 20-man Blues squad for next Wednesday night's Origin decider at ANZ Stadium.
Hayne has been sidelined since tearing his hamstring while playing for Parramatta 48 hours after Origin I - and has been ruled out of a return for the Eels on Monday night - while Bird and Gallen will both hobble into camp on Monday wearing moon boots as they nurse foot injuries.
Gallen's strained ligament occurred in Origin II, while Bird suffered some bone damage playing for Gold Coast on Saturday night with Titans medical officials labelling it a '1-2 week injury.'
Game-two debutant Aaron Woods, uncapped Sydney Roosters back-rower Boyd Cordner and Scotsman James McManus - who played his only Origin game in the 2009 series opener - were all added to the squad as cover.
But such is the value of Gallen, Bird and Hayne as the Blues' most experienced players - and the desperation of the situation with NSW attempting to win their first series since 2005 - that Daley believes it is a selection gamble worth taking.
"They're pretty important members of the team, they're pretty influential and they're good leaders to have around the group," Daley said.
"Given what they've done, they deserve the opportunity to have every chance to be right to play in the biggest game that we've played in for a while."
Asked when he would make a final call on their availability , Daley said:
"Certainly by the weekend.
"Given it's out three most experienced players, our three leaders in Greg, Gal and Jarryd, we'll give them every opportunity to be right.
"At some point there has to be a cut-off."
Hayne's inclusion on the wing - though Daley did intimate he would interchange throughout the game with fullback Josh Dugan - comes at the expense of Nathan Merritt, who had a Origin II debut to forget in game two at Suncorp Stadium.
So far has Merritt fallen out of favour that McManus, who has scored five tries in the past fortnight to be the NRL's leading tryscorer, jumped ahead of him in the queue as cover for Hayne.
In giving his reasons for Merritt's axing, Daley said he just had to find a spot for Hayne.
"He's proved that he's a great Origin player and when you've got some like that to come back into the team you make a position available," Daley said.
"And Josh Dugan was players' player in game two."
The recalling of James Tamou after he was suspended by the NRL over a drink-driving charge for game two, means the NSW side is virtually the same as the one put out for the series opener - the only change being Dugan's inclusion for the suspended Blake Ferguson.
NSW team: Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris, Michael Jennings, Josh Morris, Josh Dugan, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Paul Gallen (capt), Robbie Farah, James Tamou, Luke Lewis, Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird. Interchange: Andrew Fifita, Anthony Watmough, Trent Merrin, Josh Reynolds, James McManus, Boyd Cordner.