Origin halfbacks battle to heat up - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Origin halfbacks battle to heat up

By Wayne Heming and Samantha Broun 09/04/2009 04:25:23 PM Comments (0)

Two Easter weekend clashes could settle arguments about who wears the No.7 jumpers for Queensland and NSW in the opening game of this year's State of Origin series.

Despite his vice-like grip on the Queensland No.7 jumper, Cowboys and Australian halfback Johnathan Thurston will need to play impressively against Scott Prince in Townsville on Saturday with the Titans halfback more than capable of launching a serious challenge before the opening game of the series in Melbourne on June 3.

Just as interesting will be the head-to-head clash of Brisbane's in-form Peter Wallace and Roosters youngster Mitchell Pearce, the Blues incumbent No.7, at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday night.

Wallace, a shock selection for the opening Origin game last season, is a warm favourite with bookmakers to get the nod from NSW selectors following his impressive start to 2009.

Pearce, who made his debut in last year's series' decider after Wallace was injured in game two, has also been solid for the Roosters who hit their straps last weekend with a big win against a disappointing Parramatta.

Wallace has deliberately kept a low profile whenever he's been asked about regaining his Origin jumper but like every player it's one of his major goals.

His coach Ivan Henjak however warned him to keep his mind firmly on Friday night's game and not using his clash with his Origin rival Pearce as motivation.

"I'd like to think Pete's main priority is to play well for our side and make sure he's getting the job done that we need him to do," said Henjak.

"If Origin comes after that, it's a bonus for him but he shouldn't be thinking about Origin at all going into this game."

"I'd like to see all our players play Origin, but that's not why we're here, we're here to play for the Brisbane Broncos and to do well for them."

Henjak conceded Wallace was looking more comfortable in the No.7 this year than he did last season and taken his game up a notch or two, an observation supported by assistant coach Paul Green.

"Pete's organisation and ball playing is ahead of where he was last year and his kicking game is still very good," said Green.

"In terms of what he brings to the team he's further down the track and defensively he's very important.

"He's just such a great competitor."

Roosters skipper Braith Anasta is the incumbent Blues five-eighth and while he wasn't too keen to discuss his own Origin chances, he is adamant Pearce deserves another crack in a sky blue jumper.

"Mitch was outstanding in the last Origin last year, it was a close game and they got us in the end," said Anasta.

"Being the incumbent halfback he deserves his opportunity, but you've got to earn it.

"So I suppose the next few weeks are important for both of them.

"A few people have been talking up Wallace and Junior (Pearce), they've both had their shot at Origin and I thought both have done good jobs.

"They've been playing good this year the both of them as well, so it's a good challenge for them but I think they'll be both focused on the team more so than Origin and trying to get their team over the line."

Good Friday clashes between the two clubs have been volatile in the past but Henjak said discipline was one of Brisbane's strengths.

"We're always talking about our discipline, it's one of our strengths." said Henjak.

"The players know they have to be aggressive but they also know that they need to play within the rules and we've been good at that.

"That's not a big issue for us."

Brisbane replaced back-rower Ben Teo (ankle) with Lagi Setu and promoted 19 year-old prop Josh McGuire to the bench after wrapping up preparations on Thursday morning.

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