NSW Origin side unclear after Merrin axing - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

NSW Origin side unclear after Merrin axing

By Steve Jancetic 01/07/2011 04:07:43 PM Comments (0)

NSW coach Ricky Stuart is contemplating rolling the dice and going into the State of Origin decider with just one specialist prop following the axing of young gun Trent Merrin.

Merrin, who made minimal impact coming off the bench in the opening two games - was culled on Friday from the 20-man Blues' squad, and will return to play with St George Illawarra on Sunday.

It was assumed his omission would open the door for Wests Tigers' giant front rower Keith Galloway to make his NSW debut on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium.

But it is understood Stuart is toying with the idea of going with all-out speed and mobility off the interchange bench, which would see Manly backrower Glenn Stewart get the nod over Galloway.

The ploy worked to great effect in game two, when NSW's five-man rotation of backrowers ran the Queensland defence ragged.

Galloway's omission would leave Tim Mannah as the only specialist prop in the NSW 17 - up against Queensland's high calibre trio of Matt Scott, Petero Civoniceva and Ben Hannant.

The Blues do of course have game two hero Paul Gallen, who moved from lock to prop in Sydney and proceeded to produce one of the more memorable displays in Origin history.

Backrower Greg Bird said the lack of a specialist props is not an issue as long as players are willing to do whatever is required - admitting even he had a spell in the front row in game two.

"You're out there in the middle of the field running, taking hit-ups - you play it for one game. It's not like you're a front rower," Bird said.

"Gal's pretty much showed that he can mix it with the specialist props so that doesn't really bother me.

"We're 17 players and if I have to play on the wing or if I have to play at hooker, I'd be quite confident of getting out there and doing a job for my mates, and I think everyone takes that same attitude.

"We haven't really focused on the fact that we might be light on props because we're strong in back-rowers so I think that counteracts it."

Supporting the argument that Stuart could go with a bench of Stewart, Luke Lewis and Anthony Watmough, alongside utility Kurt Gidley, is the fact that Merrin played only 12 minutes for three hit-ups in game two.

But pushing the case for Galloway's inclusion is that everything went right for the Blues in Sydney - what would happen if either Gallen or Mannah went down in the first five minutes?

While adamant Galloway has the game to stand up to the rigours of Origin football, Bird said the players have no idea which 17 will take to the field on Wednesday night.

"I think there's a few people still in doubt with injury but it's still working out what sort of game plan we're going to take," Bird said.

"Sticky (Stuart) likes to keep his cards pretty close to his chest and I'm pretty sure he still doesn't even know who he wants to take in.

"Big Chubsy (Galloway) has been great for the Tigers for a few years now.

"I'm not sure whether him or Glenn Stewart's going to be named in the team. We still haven't been told."

All of NSW's injured brigade took some part in Friday's training session, with Jamie Soward (hamstring), Michael Jennings (ankle) and Beau Scott (knee) training freely with the full squad.

Gidley was limited to light running drills away from the main group, with officials confident the back-up hooker will be fit to take his place on the bench.

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