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Stewart injury opens door for Hayne

Brett Stewart's back injury has opened the door for a return to NSW fullback for Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne.
Stewart injury opens door for Hayne
by AAP

By Ian McCullough and Will Knight

SYDNEY, May 8 AAP - Brett Stewart's back injury has opened the door for a return to NSW fullback for Parramatta's Jarryd Hayne.

Stewart, who is the current Blues incumbent, was ruled out for at least a month on Wednesday after suffering a chipped bone following a knee to his back during Manly's 24-18 win over St George Illawarra on Monday night.

He is certain to miss the State of Origin opener in Sydney on June 5 and may have only one NRL game to prove his fitness for game two in Brisbane.

"The first scan showed nothing but we had to send him back to the doctor," said Manly coach Geoff 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."

NSW coach Laurie Daley had earmarked Josh Dugan for the fullback role at the start of the season.

But with the former Canberra bad boy currently without a club after being sacked by the Raiders, Stewart was set to keep his spot in the side.

But Daley will now be forced into a rethink before naming his first ever NSW side on Sunday, May 26.

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 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 and Newcastle's Akuila Uate will be the leading candidates to fill the the vacant wing spot.

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

Merritt is still waiting to make his Origin debut despite having 146 tries to his name from 208 NRL appearances.

But he was out-shone by the Knights' flyer in last month's City-Country clash in Coffs Harbour with Uate scoring and creating a try with a brilliant pass in the Country side's victory.

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire reiterated his backing for Merritt and said he was more than ready for Origin.

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

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

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Unlucky for Brett but I'm happy for Jarryd to get a chance again. I can't believe Dugan is always earmarked for origin. He seriously has done jack over the last season and a bit. For me Jarryd is alot better player. The hard part is deciding who will get the wing spot. I think Uate is playing really well this year, but it's hard to forget last year and the errors made. Maybe Merritt does get a go this year, he has earned a crack I think. So I guess he will play on the right and Morris on the left. So that means you'll have Josh and Nathan vs Greg and Darius. Over the last few years Darius rushes in to close down the centre (Gaz mainly). There might an opportunity there with Hayne wrapping around at fullback and going long straight to the wing. Just sayin 

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