Daley backs in-form Blues
The new-look NSW State of Origin side contains in-form players who have the belief to win, according to coach Laurie Daley.
The halves were among the most contentious and hotly-debated positions, with Bulldogs pairing Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson edging Roosters incumbents James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, but Daley had no hesitation when asked whether he was comfortable throwing the pair to the Suncorp Stadium lions on May 28.
"With Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds playing extremely well, they're playing in the team that's leading the competition, they're in career-best form, I thought it was important we had that combination there," Daley said.
He confirmed he hadn't considered dropping the incumbent halves pairing until reports emerged of Pearce's night out in Kings Cross, but refused to put a red line through the premiership-winning combination.
"We had a camp in January and discussed a lot of things and I think everyone was clear on what the requirements were," he said.
"After speaking to [Pearce] I knew the right decision was to leave him out for Game I and that's not to say he won't play any further part in the series."
He backed Pearce to bounce back, saying it was in his best interests to go back and play well for the Roosters and get some confidence back.
"He understood the reasons why [he was omitted], there's a number of reasons why. We felt that was in the best interests of the team and he supported that."
Asked if the Pearce incident had cost Maloney his spot also, Daley said the Roosters hadn't been travelling that well so far in 2014 and the halves were "not playing as well as we'd like".
He described the new-look side as a "calculated gamble".
"You never throw someone in without thinking through the whole puzzle. For us, while we all want short-term success, part of my job is to create a team that is not only going to sustain pressure for the short term but will build success for a long period. That may take time but we know what we need to do."
Discussing the selections of in-form players such as Eels fullback Jarryd Hayne is his preferred No.1 jersey and the return of Bulldogs wrecking ball Tony Williams and Newcastle hard man beau Scott, Daley said he was comfortable the players picked could perform their roles despite the absences of players such as Greg Bird (suspended) and Andrew Fifita (ankle injury). Daley also refused to dwell on the unavailable challenges and said it was up to the players to accept it and move on.
He said Williams would play fewer minutes in Origin than he had been week to week at the Bulldogs, adding he had been damaging in his time on the field in his previous Origin appearances and was now playing better football than he ever has. He also said Beau Scott would go a long way to making up for the absence of Bird.
"Beau brings that toughness to any team, the guys really enjoy playing with him, he's an experienced guy that won't be intimidated at all and he'll thrive on that atmosphere," he said.
He said Roosters Origin debutant, winger Daniel Tupou, was a "good young kid" who showed he was comfortable on the big stage following his grand final win in 2013.
"He's playing really well for the Roosters, he's a big man, good under a high ball, very good in defence and carries the ball well... I think he can add a lot of value to the team."
Daley said Hayne was now playing the football we all know he can play but insisted the mercurial fullback needed to not feel like he was responsible for everything the team did.
"We won't beat Queensland individually, we'll beat them as a team if we are going to win – we need 17 guys to do their job and if we do that we'll give ourselves a chance."
The only players arguably not coming into the side on the back of outstanding recent club form are proven performers such as Luke Lewis, Paul Gallen and Robbie Farah, who have spent plenty of time on the sidelines through injury.
"When I rang Luke Lewis I said to Lewy, 'Are you up for another Origin game?' and he just said 'yep' – so that'll do me," Daley said.
"Gal, Robbie, they're guys that know their body really well and if they had an inkling they couldn't get through it we would have maybe looked at other options but when they say to me they can get through I trust them knowing their body. We need that experience and we need that composure and those guys bring that."