NSW coach Laurie Daley will rely on a pack of Sharks to devour Queensland after Wade Graham was last night officially the fourth Cronulla player to be selected for the Blues.
The Sharks will provide their largest contingent to the NSW side in their 49-year history with captain Paul Gallen, five-eighth James Maloney, wrecking ball Andrew Fifita and debutant Graham ready to try and even the series at 1-1 at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday week.
Graham was the only change made by Blues coach Laurie Daley after his side’s heartbreaking 6-4 loss to the Maroons in game one at ANZ Stadium.
“Wade deserves it,” Daley said.
“Obviously he’s been around for a while and is playing in a really strong team. He plays on the left side of the field and we wanted to go with a specialist that is used to playing left side, Jimmy Maloney. That’s how it worked out.”
Graham comes into the side in place of injured Sydney Roosters forward Boyd Cordner, who is likely to miss the rest of the series with a foot injury.
“He is different type of player to Boyd but he will do a really good job for us, I’m sure. He won’t be overawed,” Daley said of the 25-year-old.
“The fact is he has been around a while yet is still relatively young. He has played a lot of games and plays tough. You need that requirement when you are playing in Origin.
“Wade has played 150-160 games now so if he’s ever going to be ready, he will be ready now.”
Just to top-off a historic moment for the in-form Sharks, rising star Jack Bird was named — alongside Penrith’s Bryce Cartwright — as a NSW development player.
The Sharks have never had anymore than three players represent NSW in a single game since the club’s inception in 1967.
Daley retained utility player Manly’s Dylan Walker on his interchange bench while injured centre Josh Dugan missed selection due to an elbow injury.
“No, he wasn’t considered. It was one of those ones where he wouldn’t be able to do some contact, so, no, he wasn’t picked,” Daley said.
Penrith’s Matt Moylan retained his fullback spot despite pressure from red-hot Wests Tiger James Tedesco.
Daley also stuck with Walker, considered a controversial choice for game one. Walker cemented his place with a super first half for Manly against Penrith on Sunday at Brookvale.
“He showed what he can do on Sunday. We have every faith in him. We have a role for him to play there. He deserves another crack,” Daley said.
NSW’s gritty and courageous effort in game one prompted Daley to retain the same side.
“There was plenty of criticism of the side but they gave their all and we can all be proud of that,” Daley said.
“No doubt though we need to be better in certain areas which I think we will be. It was a completely new team for game one and I thought we put in a very strong performance, given it was our first time together.
“We expect to grow as the series goes on. We are coming up against a Queensland side that has played a lot footy together and they know what they are doing. One of the things we need to be able to do is build and mould a team and be careful how we do it. That is part of the reason there aren’t many changes.”
North Queensland giant James Tamou will start at prop with Gallen again shifting to lock. That will leave Bird, Fifita, Walker and Canterbury forward David Klemmer on the interchange bench.