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Luke Lewis a NSW utility option: Sheens

By Steve Jancetic 30/04/2008 02:18:58 PM Comments (0)

NSW City coach Tim Sheens has pushed Penrith utility Luke Lewis' case for the 'Mr Fixit' job on the NSW Origin bench should Kurt Gidley be handed the Blues No.7 jumper.

As the battle for the NSW halves spots takes another turn following the naming of Jarrod Mullen at halfback for Newcastle this weekend, Sheens said Lewis - named in the second row for City against Country on Friday night - could be a potent weapon on the Blues bench.

Lewis hasn't donned a NSW jumper since playing all three games in the 2004 Origin series on the wing, and while he'll be a candidate for the wing spot left vacant by Matt King's departure to England, Sheens believes the 24-year-old could also be a good option on the bench.

Gidley, the utility in the Australian squad for next week's Test against New Zealand, would be a shoe-in to get that job for the Blues as well, but there is a push for him to be the starting halfback ahead of the four rivals battling it out in the City v Country clash at WIN Stadium on Friday night.

Better known as a centre or a winger, Lewis has played just about everywhere but the front row for the Panthers this season and Sheens admitted NSW selectors had been keen to see if he could hold his own in a representative pack.

"Playing there I think it expands his opportunity to play rep footy even as bench option - he can play second row, centre, wing, lock, five-eighth," Sheens said.

"He's got a good build for it, he's got good leg speed and I think even the state selectors wanted to see him play a little bit closer too - he's an aggressive defender and quick for a centre and very quick for a backrower."

Melbourne power packet Anthony Quinn is favoured to get King's wing spot for the Origin opener at ANZ Stadium on May 21, but Lewis said he was still up to the task of matching with the speed men out wide.

Given the Blues wingers will likely be marking up against two big men in Greg Inglis and Israel Folau, NSW selectors will want to ensure they have a sound defensive option out wide, and that may just push Lewis' named to the forefront.

"I'd put my hand up for it and take it with both hands if I got the chance," Lewis said of a NSW wing berth.

"I'd love to have the opportunity to play Origin again.

"Playing (in the backrow for City) might hurt my chances but the good thing about it is I get the experience of playing everywhere on the field, maybe it could help my chances.

"I don't know what's going to happen on the wing but even a bench jersey would be awesome."

The City side was given the day off training on Wednesday, with Sheens to give them one final hitout on Thursday afternoon at WIN Stadium.

Sheens will make a final decision on prop Mark O'Meley's (hamstring) fitness on Thursday, while in the Country side Bulldogs forward Andrew Ryan (knee) erased his health concerns by completing his first training session with the team in Wollongong.

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