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Injuries force Daley into a rethink

Just a week after claiming he essentially knew what the make-up of his NSW side would be, coach Laurie Daley has been forced into a rethink.
Injuries force Daley into a rethink
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, May 8 AAP - Just a week after claiming he essentially knew what the make-up of his NSW side would be, coach Laurie Daley has been forced into a rethink.

It was at a media event in Sydney last Thursday that the new Blues coach revealed that aside from the five-eighth position and a front row spot he had already picked his State of Origin team.

But that has now changed with Brett Stewart to miss the series opener due to a chipped bone in his back and winger Brett Morris undergoing knee surgery on Wednesday and in severe doubt.

Stewart is out for up to five weeks after sustaining the injury in Manly's 24-18 win over St George Illawarra on Monday.

Dragons winger Morris injured himself in the same game and went under the knife to repair the cartilage in his left knee and could face up to a month on the sidelines with the side picked on Sunday, May 26.

The pair played in last year's series decider in Brisbane.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey said the serious nature of the injury to fullback Stewart stunned everyone at the club.

"The first scan showed nothing but we had to send him back to the doctor," said Toovey on Wednesday.

"And the scans late in the afternoon showed he's got a small chip in his back ... so out for probably about a month or so.

"It's a blow for everyone. It was such a minor thing that happened ... it's a bit of a shock to us."

Skipper Paul Gallen is also battling a medial ligament injury and is expected to miss Cronulla's clash with the Wests Tigers on Friday. However it's likely he'll recover in time for Origin.

But with Stewart out and Daley's initial first-choice at the start of the year Josh Dugan not playing as he waits for the NRL to ratify a contract offer from the Dragons, Jarryd Hayne looks the most likely option to fill the No.1 shirt.

Despite being just 25, Hayne is the Blues' most experienced Origin performer with 16 appearances to his name since making his debut on the wing in 2007.

The Eels co-captain has played most of his NRL career in the custodian role and scooped the Dally M Medal in 2009 following a stunning run of form that helped his side reach the grand final.

However, he has only played fullback twice for the Blues under Craig Bellamy during the 2010 series, won 3-0 by Queensland, and played on the wing in all three games last year.

Should Daley opt to move Hayne to the back, South Sydney's Nathan Merritt could finally be in line to make his long-awaited Origin debut.

Merritt is yet to don the Blues shirt despite having scored 146 tries in 208 NRL appearances.

His South Sydney coach Michael Maguire reiterated his backing for the free-scoring winger on Wednesday and said he was more than ready for Origin.

"I have no doubts that he can handle it," Maguire said.

"He does it every week for South Sydney. If he gets the opportunity he will definitely take it."

Should Morris fail to recover, Newcastle winger Akuila Uate would be favourite to regain the spot he lost to Morris after game two last year.

Uate played in games one and two but was axed for the decider in Brisbane.

In-from Cronulla fullback Michael Gordon and Canberra centre Blake Ferguson could also be in the mix for a wing spot.


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