Canterbury NRL coach Des Hasler says captain Michael Ennis deserves to hold his place at hooker for NSW in the upcoming State of Origin series.
Selection talk suggests Ennis is being heavily pushed by Newcastle veteran Danny Buderus, a former Blues skipper who has made a strong return to the NRL this season.
However, Hasler dismissed the excitement around Buderus as mere speculation and believes his No.9 is playing too well for the high-flying Bulldogs hooker to warrant scrutiny.
“It’s all speculation isn’t it? Mick’s the incumbent. He’s been going very well,” said Hasler.
It’s not the first time that the ultra-competitive Ennis has faced the prospect of an Origin showdown.
Ennis and Wests Tigers rake Robbie Farah had an often-fiery audition process for the Blues hooking role, a jersey which was eventually won and held onto by the tenacious Bulldog.
Buderus’ experience at Origin level has put him on the radar for coach Ricky Stuart, but Hasler said the pressure wouldn’t get to the man who has led the Bulldogs to a four and one start to the season.
“He’s such a pro that he won’t let these things get to him,” Hasler said.
Ennis is preparing for his 150th NRL match on Good Friday against South Sydney, having had previous stints at Newcastle, St George Illawarra and Brisbane.
The 28-year-old said he’s not entirely happy with his form to start the year but isn’t being bogged down thinking about Origin.
Ennis believes any competition for the No.9 shirt can only be a boost for NSW.
“It’s always healthy when spots are to be competed for. No doubt the people in the higher places at NSW will be happy to have such competition for spots,” he said.
“I’m always a hard marker but it’s not where I’d like to be. I’m certainly working hard on my game and adapting to a few different things. It’s early on and there’s a long way to go in this race yet. I just want to keep improving week to week.
“(150 games) is something I’m extremely proud of and I’m grateful I get to do it in a Bulldogs jersey.”