Former New South Wales half Josh Reynolds believes there is no need for the Blues to sack incumbent halves pairing Nathan Cleary and James Maloney despite their awful club form for Penrith.
The Panthers are down the bottom of the table on just two wins along with the Titans and Bulldogs and have scored just 117 points at a rate of just 13 per game — to be second-worst in the competition — and for Maloney it’s even worse.
He has given away more penalties than any player in the NRL, with 13, and his usually suspect defence has been shocking, with 47 missed tackles an equal league-worst alongside Panthers’ teammate James Fisher-Harris.
Yet despite all that and a host of other options for the Blues, Wests Tigers star Reynolds believes the pair can still thrive in the Origin cauldron.
“I honestly think Cody Walker and Luke Keary are the form players of the competition and it’s a bit harsh, but I think you’ve got to stick with Cleary and Maloney,” Reynolds said on Macquarie Sports Radio.
“They did the job last year and if you get them out of that Penrith team and put them into camp with blokes like Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco who are on fire, if you put them around winners, I think they’ll become winners.
“You don’t forget how to lose and it gets hard at stages.
“Penrith are feeling it at the moment don’t get me wrong, but I think if you’re put in that arena it’s a totally different situation.
”It’s massive from a players’ point of view and it might not happen but I think for them two, especially Maloney, I look at him as a player and he never seems to get rattled.”
CLEARY SWINGS THE AXE
The point might be at odds with selectors but one can never guess when it comes to Origin, although it seems at least at Penrith, coach Ivan Cleary doesn’t believe his halves are the problem.
That comes on a team list Tuesday where he swung the axe hard — Cleary spared his son and Maloney but dumped Australia winger Josh Mansour and forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard.
Mansour, who was one of six co-captains named earlier in the year before James Tamou took sole captaincy, and Aekins will both play reserve grade.
Dylan Edwards and Waqa Blake have been recalled, Liam Martin returns from suspension, while Brian To’o has been handed a debut on the wing. Campbell-Gillard, who this time last year was on his way to being selected for NSW in State of Origin I, is on an extended bench against an unchanged Warriors team.
Newly re-signed Eels coach Brad Arthur has made three changes following his team’s 54-point thrashing, including Will Smith at five-eighth for Jaeman Salmon.
Michael Jennings is a notable omission and has been replaced by Josh Hoffman, while George Jennings comes in for the suspended Maika Sivo.
The troops have returned for Manly, with Dylan Walker freed from the NRL’s no- fault stand down policy, and Jorge Taufua, Addin Fonua-Blake and Lachlan Croker back from injury.
Brisbane star James Roberts’ exile from the NRL has continued despite Jack Bird’s season-ending injury, with Gehamat Shibasaki in the centres and Jamayne Isaako on the wing.
New signing James Segeyaro is on an extended bench against a Sydney Roosters side missing co-captain Boyd Cordner to concussion, replaced by Mitch Aubusson.
Injuries have forced Melbourne into two changes, with Ryan Papenhuyzen at fullback for Jarome Hughes, and Marion Seve in the centres for Curtis Scott.
On the Gold Coast, AJ Brimson starts at fullback for the absent Michael Gordon, with Tyrone Roberts returning from injury against Canterbury. The Bulldogs have recalled Corey Harawira-Naera for the injured Adam Elliott.
South Sydney will get a glimpse into their NRL future after Corey Allan was named at fullback to replace the injured Alex Johnston for Saturday’s clash with Canberra.
Mawene Hiroti will play his second game on the wing against a Raiders side that has Bailey Simonssen on the wing for the injured Jordan Rapana.