Pick Finch and Anasta, says Mason - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pick Finch and Anasta, says Mason

By David Beniuk and Steve Jancetic 12/05/2008 07:25:44 PM Comments (0)

NSW certainty Willie Mason has urged Blues selectors not to go with two makeshift halves when they name their team on Tuesday for next week's State of Origin opener against Queensland.

With Blues selectors poised to pick Cronulla lock Greg Bird at five-eighth and Newcastle fullback Kurt Gidley at halfback, Mason warned Monday against picking players out of position.

"You wouldn't really want two makeshift halves going into a massive Origin series," he said.

The powerhouse forward said Sydney Roosters team-mate Braith Anasta should wear the No.6 and Parramatta's Brett Finch the No.7.

"Finch and Anasta just sounds right to me in my mind," Mason told reporters.

"I'm not a selector or anything. They'll go with whoever they feel is going to do the job but I think Finch and Anasta have done the job before and I think Greg Bird's probably the best lock in Australia."

Despite predominantly playing No.13 for his club, Bird has steered Australia from pivot in their last two Tests - both victories over arch rivals New Zealand - in the absence of Kangaroos skipper Darren Lockyer.

But Mason came out swinging in support of Anasta after a media report suggested some representative players did not want to play with the Roosters five-eighth.

"More than ever this year I couldn't pump his tires up enough," Mason said.

"Not because I'm playing with him, because he's playing really well and I know he can take that confidence into the Origin arena."

Bird and Gidley are the overwhelming favourites to earn starts at ANZ Stadium on May 21, with Finch also a chance to be picked at halfback and young Newcastle No.7 Jarrod Mullen an outside possibility if he has a blinder against Melbourne on Monday night.

Blues great and former halfback Steve Mortimer also threw his support behind the Finch-Anasta combination.

"It'd be nice to have a halfback that plays there all the time," he said.

"Kurt's a fullback - that's where he plays most of the time ... I just think he can add so much more coming off the bench.

"I think Finch has shown enough form, he has performed with Anasta before."

Mortimer said Anasta was the best option for a Blues side which is likely to need to score plenty of points to counter a lethal Queensland backline which will include the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges.

"That third game last year (when Bird played five-eighth) it was very 'tough it out', it was very physical but I think that NSW have got to have an expansive game and I think that's where Anasta can assist," Mortimer told AAP.

Selectors will be mindful, though, of what value they could get from Gidley off the bench, with hooker Danny Buderus likely to play most of the match.

Gidley wasn't used from the Kangaroos bench until well into the second half in Friday night's Test victory over the Kiwis.

Other positions up for grabs are one wing spot, the starting front row and the bench.

Melbourne's Anthony Quinn and Canberra's Joel Monaghan are tussling for the wing spot, although St George Illawarra centre Matt Cooper could find himself pushed one position wider if selectors choose to include Manly's Jamie Lyon for his goal-kicking.

Test prop Brent Kite, Mason, Melbourne's Brett White and Newcastle's Ben Cross could start in the front row or be named on the bench, while Finch, Anasta, the Dragons' Ben Hornby or Brisbane's Peter Wallace could be the utility.

Likely NSW team: Brett Stewart, Joel Monaghan, Mark Gasnier, matt Cooper, Jarryd Hayne, Greg Bird, Kurt Gidley, Brent Kite, Danny Buderus (capt), Willie Mason, Ryan Hoffman, Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Brett Finch, Anthony Tupou, Brett White, Ben Cross.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2021 AAP

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