Stuart might not get his Origin Three wish
Ricky Stuart illustration by David Green Cartoonist
Last week Ricky Stuart said he didn’t want to mess with his bench for the State of Origin decider.
He liked the way he could rotate Trent Merrin, Luke Lewis, Ben Creagh and Anthony Watmough in and out of the contest.
It’s why the side named for game three of the series in Brisbane is intriguing.
Beau Scott and Tony Williams are seen to be in a battle for a spot on the bench with Luke Lewis moving into the starting side.
But if Stuart isn’t willing to tinker with his interchange system then the New South Wales side could take on a different look.
As it stands, Greg Bird needs a partner in the second-row.
Glenn Stewart is in camp. Stuart said it was “out of respect”, but unless respect can heal a ligament then the Manly back rower is next to no chance of running on to Suncorp Stadium.
Perhaps it was just to give Queensland something to think about as the Maroons continue to threaten to unleash a semi-fit Billy Slater. Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy seethed at the thought of that last night.
If the other second-rower isn’t coming from the bench, then that leaves Scott and Williams fighting it out for a starting spot.
Under those circumstances you’d have to go with the St George Illawarra hard man.
Scott is as tough as nails and Stuart knows one edge of his line needs a little starch.
At the weekend, Blues assistant coach Steve Roach said Scott was “a tough bastard who would give them hell.”
That’s not to say that Williams misses out.
T-Rex produced an Origin audition that caught the eye as Manly belted the Roosters yesterday.
He has transformed himself from a player who occasionally contributes into an 80-minute wrecking machine.
His hit-ups aren’t text book. Just ask Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce who was sent crashing to the Allianz Stadium turf after receiving a big “don’t argue” from Williams. His other efforts resembled a giant swatting away annoying flies.
Williams did the same to the Maroons in his short but spectacular debut in Origin 1. That has been at the forefront of Stuart’s mind since.
If Stuart is keen on keeping that ace in his pack then it leaves Ben Creagh or Anthony Watmough in danger of missing out. Watmough has been in sensational form since game two, so Creagh could be standing on shaky ground.
The coach has to whittle six-fit second-rowers down to five by game day.
Having Bird, Lewis, Creagh, Watmough, Williams and Scott all fit at once is a blessing, but one that comes with a tough decision at the end.
This time, the outcome of the series could depend on it.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.
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