NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley hasn’t wasted time turning the blowtorch on his series-opening squad, telling them: Perform, or I’ll find someone else who can.
Daley made six changes to the team that took out last year’s dead rubber in Sydney, including handing out two debuts to Nathan Peats and Jake Trbojevic.
But Origin week had barely been a day old when the fifth-year Blues mentor warned his 20-man squad that he wasn’t kidding about his rich pool of talent to pick from for the series.
“We’ve got plenty of depth, so the challenge for our players this year is not to feel comfortable because we have got players underneath that we haven’t had that in the past,” Daley said.
In addition to the rookie pair, stalwarts Brett Morris, Jarryd Hayne and Mitchell Pearce all received call-ups, while returning second-rower Boyd Cordner was named captain.
The change-up meant axings for veterans Robbie Farah, James Tamou and Michael Jennings, as well as makeshift five-eighth Matt Moylan.
Injured winger Josh Mansour was unavailable, as was Origin retiree Paul Gallen.
But despite the swathe of axings, Daley was also unable to find room for in-form hopefuls Paul Vaughan, Dylan Walker and Trent Merrin.
“That’s what excites me. We’ve got a good group of players to choose from, so the ball’s in their court. They know now they have to perform,” Daley said.
“If they don’t, we’ve got other people ready to go. That’s the pressure that we’ve been looking to build internally in our squad and I think we’ve done that.”
The newly-appointed NSWRL hall of fame inductee has previously been reluctant to make wholesale changes mid-series, unless forced to by injury.
However Daley suggested that could change this year.
“I don’t know whether we’ve had that group of players in the past that you could really choose and make a lot of changes,” he said.
“This year I think there’s a number of guys that have been unlucky to miss selection.
“And that’s what you want – you want them to be hungry as well and make sure that when their opportunity arises, they’re ready to take it.”