NSW origin jumpers up for grabs in Dubbo - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NSW origin jumpers up for grabs in Dubbo

By Steve Jancetic 11/05/2006 06:36:39 PM Comments (0)

Players and coaches spend all week denying it, but City-Country clashes are rarely about the game. And Friday night in Dubbo is no different, with all eyes on the game within the game.

While there's no doubt both sides will want to win, the 34 players that take to Apex Oval will also have NSW jumpers in their thoughts, with Blues selectors sitting down on Sunday night to pick their squad for the State of Origin opener.

Most focus will be on the halves, with City Origin's Matt Orford, Craig Gower and Braith Anasta and Country Origin's Kurt Gidley and Brett Finch all fighting it out for Blues five-eighth and halfback berths, left vacant following the representative retirement of Trent Barrett and Andrew Johns.

City Origin coach Tim Sheens has warned his troops to stay focused on the game, because to the victor generally go the spoils.

"We've talked about just staying in the moment and just playing the game set by set and not worrying about personal things against other players or trying to outplay the other guy from the point of view of trying to make a NSW jumper," Sheens said.

"Sometimes you can try too hard, and if you over-try it can lead to poor decisions. It's a matter of concentrating on playing with their own teammates."

For Gower it's also about adopting to a new position, bumped out to five-eighth to accommodate Orford at halfback. But it's still the Blues No.7 jumper that he craves, even more so now, as it won't just be as a stop-gap measure while Johns is out injured.

"There is that, but you also just want to win the game," Gower said.

"Obviously it is an incentive, but if you start thinking too far ahead you don't play well. It's just about playing well tomorrow night."

Country Origin coach Craig Bellamy says he will not mention the possibility of NSW berths in his pre-game speech.

"We're playing for Country," he said.

"They know that if we play well as a team, that will give them the best chance to win a NSW jumper."

There are no guarantees though that a strong performance on Friday night will lead to NSW selection.

Blues coach Graham Murray has already stated that there are only five or six spots up for grabs, and that club form would play a large role in selection.

"You don't know what Graham Murray's thinking," Sheens said.

"He could quite easily pick a centre to play wing or a wing to play fullback, you don't know, although I think it takes a bit more on this year than in the past because of the amount of spots available.

"I'm sure Graham Murray's got a fair idea of what he wants to do, this game will only have some bearing on that."

One player primed for a big game is City prop Joel Clinton, who vowed earlier this week that he would bash his way to a sky blue jumper.

Bellamy refused to buy into the pre-game banter, but said his players will be ready for the Penrith big man.

"Joel's sort of put himself out there now, and he's got to back it up," Bellamy said.

"If he can, good luck to him."

Both sides came through a final training run at Apex Oval unscathed, with City Origin's 18th man Anthony Watmough to miss out on a game.

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