NSW Origin spots 'already decided' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NSW Origin spots 'already decided'

By Steve Jancetic and Dave Donaghy 09/05/2006 06:33:06 PM Comments (0)

NSW coach Graham Murray will save himself a trip to Dubbo for Friday night's City-Country game in preference of a midnight replay from his Melbourne hotel, claiming the majority of positions in the Blues line-up have already been decided.

Murray, who will be in the Victorian capital on Friday with his North Queensland side ahead of Saturday night's top of the table NRL clash against Melbourne, said there was no need for him to be at the City-Country game.

"No I won't be in Dubbo, I'll be in Melbourne," the new Blues coach said.

"I'll get to see it. I'll watch it on Channel Nine, which is at worse an hour delayed, so I'll get to see the game."

Unfortunately for Murray, coverage of rugby league in Melbourne isn't quite the equal of Townsville, and he'll have to make do with an 11.45pm replay.

His decision not to attend the match is sure to again stir up debate as to the merits of the match as a genuine selection trial for the Origin series, especially with the 11 NSW players who played for Australia in last week's Test against New Zealand not playing on Friday night.

Murray said all of the Test representatives were likely to feature in the NSW side for the May 24 series opener at Telstra Stadium, with fullback, five-eighth, halfback and lock the only positions with glaring vacancies.

"I don't know if they're (the Test players) automatic selections but I think they've got a pretty big stride in," Murray said.

"But I'd say that if they're good enough to play for Australia then they're well thought at New South Wales level.

"There'll be about, barring injuries and suspensions, about six spots open.

"Obviously with Andrew Johns not playing and Darren Lockyer (with) Queensland out of the Test team, we've straight away got to pick new halves and five-eighth."

City trio Matt Orford, Craig Gower, and Braith Anasta are believed to be battling it out for the vacant No.6 and No.7 jumpers, while Country and Newcastle pivot Kurt Gidley is also in contention.

Ben Hornby and Brett Hodgson, opposing fullbacks at Dubbo, are the leading contenders for the fullback role, with Test custodian Anthony Minichiello unavailable due to a back injury.

But strong performances on Friday night will count for little when selectors sit down to pick their side on Sunday night, with Murray admitting more weight would be given to players who have been performing week-in, week-out.

"I reckon it's got to do with how their form's been all year," he said.

"Everyone knows how they've played and if they have a big game on Friday night all that does is enhance their situation."

Murray's stance was in direct contrast to Country Origin coach Craig Bellamy, who said plenty of NSW jerseys would be up for grabs.

"More than ever I think it's an Origin trial on Friday night because of basically the situation NSW finds itself in," Bellamy told radio station 2KY.

"Probably a little bit skinny in the halves ... more than ever this is an Origin trial."

Meanwhile Murray said Parramatta winger Eric Grothe would still come under consideration for a NSW berth despite arriving over two hours late for the City Origin medical.

Grothe was eventually ruled out with a back injury, but has been named in the Eels side for Sunday's clash against the Bulldogs on Sunday.

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