Blues hooker Robbie Farah says his clubmate Aaron Woods is a vital part of the NSW set-up who is good enough to be selected for Origin I on little or no preparation.
Woods suffered an ankle injury in Wests Tigers' 18-16 loss to Newcastle on Sunday, which will put him out for four to six weeks and has him racing the clock to play another game for his club before NSW go into camp ahead of the June 1 series opener.
Woods has come of age as an Origin prop over the past two years and was on track for a player of the series nod last year after two games, until the Blues' capitulation in the decider.
Farah said even one NRL game would be enough for the hard-working 25-year-old to prove his fitness and didn't rule out Woods taking his place with no NRL games between now and Origin I.
"He's been there for a few years, he's become a regular in the team and a senior player to some extent," Farah said.
"Laurie [Daley] is a very loyal coach and Woodsy hasn't let us down in the past. I've been in a similar situation before, I think in 2014 I had a dislocated elbow and played the one game before Game I and Laurie didn't hesitate in picking me. I'm sure if Woodsy's fit he'll be in the side."
Farah said Woods wouldn't let anyone down even with no games in the six weeks leading up to the first Origin.
"I'm not too sure what 'Loz' is thinking there, whether he does require Woodsy to play a game but Woodsy, as I said he's a veteran now even though he's still a young sort of kid and he's been playing Origin and for Australia for a long time. He knows what's expected of him, he'll keep himself fit, he'll work hard on his rehab and I'm sure he'll be ready to go," Farah added.
Woods's absence will be an even bigger blow in the short term for the struggling Wests Tigers, who have now lost four straight games since a bright 2-0 start to the year.
"It's tough mate, he's a leader of our pack, he's our skipper, he's been playing upwards of 65 minutes every week," Farah said.
"The amount of work he gets through is going to be tough to replace so the person that does come in has got a big workload to cover there and we've all got to pick up the slack."
Farah didn't expect to wear the captain's armband in Woods's absence, nominating current vice captains Chris Lawrence and Dene Halatau as the men to get the job done.
"I think I'm still a leader even though I don't have the 'c' next to my name but we've still got Chrissy Lawrence and Dene Halatau there as vice captains and they'll step into the role and I'll still be there doing my job leading the boys around in what I have to do on the field," he said.
Having notched his first 80-minute game of the year on the weekend against the Knights, Farah said his own match fitness is returning.
"It's getting there. It always takes a few games to get up to speed but the fitness has been fine and built up to 80 minutes on the weekend and got through that. I feel like I'm getting better with every week that goes by," he said – though added he wouldn't mind chalking up his first win of the year after sitting out the first few rounds injured.
"It's obviously an exciting time of year when Origin comes up to the calendar but there's still six or seven weeks til the first game so there's a lot of work to be done and just looking forward to hopefully getting back in the winner's circle would be nice, I haven't won a game yet this year.
"[I'll aim to] win a couple of games at the Tigers first then worry about Origin when the time comes."
This article first appeared on NRL.com