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Don't blow your Origin chance: Daley

By Steve Jancetic 01/05/2008 06:37:57 PM Comments (0)

Country coach Laurie Daley has delivered a representative eve warning to the host of State of Origin hopefuls at WIN Stadium on Friday night - "don't blow your chance of a Blues jumper".

While strong performances in the annual City-Country clash won't guarantee anyone a start in Origin I later this month, NSW selector Daley claimed poor displays could have a greater affect on a player's selection hopes.

His words of warning will do little to ease the pressure on several players in both squads, particularly those involved in the play-off for the NSW halfback jumper - Mitchell Pearce, Peter Wallace and Brett Finch.

"That's the point that I think most people miss about this game. If you play bad, it sticks out and when it comes to Origin discussion you're sort of put on the backburner," Daley said.

"If you play well you're always in the mix, you're always spoken about.

"You may not necessarily be selected but you're mentioned. You become that next in line.

"It's something selectors have looked at over the past few (City-Country) games.

"It's one of those double-edged swords - there's a lot there for a player to gain even if you don't get selected."

History shows Daley's threat has some merit, with a number of players having their Origin hopes dashed by dismal displays for either City or Country.

Last year Penrith skipper Craig Gower had his cards marked with a lacklustre performance for City, the veteran halfback unable to get his side going against a Country team which had been decimated by injury.

Similarly in 2006, Manly No.7 Matt Orford was outshone by Finch in the clash at Dubbo, with five runs for just 39 metres doing little to help City get over the line and Orford into a Blues jumper.

Orford also struggled in his previous City appearance in 2004, with four runs for eight metres and two handling errors in a game which Country won 22-18.

Given the stakes up for grabs heading into Friday night's game, NSW selectors will be keen to see how the younger candidates handle the pressure with Wallace and Pearce still relatively new to first grade.

Waiting for them to flop are Orford and Newcastle utility Kurt Gidley, with state selectors claiming the Manly skipper is still well in the reckoning for the Origin opener on May 21 despite being overlooked for Friday night's game.

Gidley, meanwhile, will have to press his claims from some unusual positions after being selected on the bench for Australia and at fullback for the Knights against Gold Coast on Saturday night.

While City-Country can kill off some players' chances, it can also do them wonders, as evidenced by Melbourne prop Brett White's spectacular rise through the ranks last year.

Country's White was on the periphery of Origin talks early in the season, but 140m from 15 runs in just 40 minutes of football for Country catapulted him into the NSW side for last year's series opener.

It's left White shaking his head at claims from some quarters that the City-Country games serve no purpose.

"It's unbelievable because you look back on last year, I don't think I was in the talk for Origin until after this game," White said.

"They're saying it's a trial game again for the NSW side and after Friday night there'll be some names thrown up from this game."

Organisers said plenty of tickets remained available for the match.

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