Origin decider a battle for 'Roos No.1 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Origin decider a battle for 'Roos No.1

By Todd Balym 25/06/2008 07:53:15 PM Comments (0)

NSW fullback Brett Stewart says next week's State of Origin decider could determine who wears the No.1 jumper for Australia in this year's World Cup.

Stewart is locked in a three-way battle with Queensland custodians Karmichael Hunt and Billy Slater for the Kangaroos side for the year-ending event in Australia.

Slater is the incumbent after playing in the Centenary Test but has lost his Maroons starting place to Hunt.

Stewart wore the green and gold last year and wants to use the State of Origin series decider to push his claims for a Test recall.

The way Stewart sees it, not only is the Origin series locked 1-all but so too is the fight between himself and the Queensland duo.

Slater won the Test battle, Stewart took Origin I honours with a try in NSW's victory and his sublime touch setting up their first four-pointer while Hunt responded with an outstanding performance when Queensland levelled the series in Origin II.

"It's the last rep game before the (World Cup) selection so if you wanted to step up this would be the time," said Stewart.

"If you can do it at Origin level you know you've proven you can do it at the highest level.

"(Hunt and Slater) have been pretty good. (Queensland) scored 30 points against us in game two which I suppose some outside backs would look a bit better than ours because they're scoring points.

"(My series) has been pretty good. I have probably defended a little bit more than I would have liked in game two.

"Game one I was pretty happy but I am still probably looking at pushing a bit more up the middle."

Stewart's biggest challenge over the next seven days is to produce a match-winning combination with NSW's new halves pairing.

Stewart has played outside of three different halves combinations at Origin level and next week's new-look partnership of Braith Anasta and Mitchell Pearce will become the fourth in his five matches.

It's made Origin life far more difficult for Stewart because at club level he's developed a remarkable understanding with halfback Matt Orford and scored 78 tries in 99 NRL games.

Stewart insists the short Origin preparation is enough time to develop a successful understanding with the NSW halves and they'll put particular focus on optimising their deadly kicking game.

"You have enough time to form a combination during the week but it still doesn't prepare you for out in the game," said Stewart.

"It is always easier playing with a half week in week out, than getting thrown in with a combination you're not used too.

"One of (Anasta and Pearce's) attributes is their kicking game and I know I won't be the only one looking for it."

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