Queensland playmaker Corey Norman fears his form for St George Illawarra may cost him his place in the Maroons squad for the State of Origin series and is aiming to impress incoming Dragons coach Anthony Griffin.
Norman was Queensland five-eighth in the third match of last year’s series at ANZ Stadium after being 18th man in Origin II in Perth but he faces competition from Gold Coast utility AJ Brimson and Cowboys captain Michael Morgan for a spot in the squad.
Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans and Melbourne five-eighth Cameron Munster, who played fullback in last year’s series decider, are almost certain to be the Queensland halves but the Maroons and NSW will both select 27-man squads for the historic end-of-season Origin campaign.
With Wests Tigers rookie Harry Grant, Parramatta’s Reed Mahoney and Roosters veteran Jake Friend vying for the hooking role, Norman's teammate Ben Hunt may revert to the bench utility role – although he won Queensland’s player of the series from dummy half last year.
Hunt, Morgan and the in-form Brimson can all cover for Cherry-Evans and Munster in the halves, while the return of Valentine Holmes provides another fullback option if Kalyn Ponga is unavailable again.
“That is not on my mind,” Norman said when asked about his Origin prospects. “I probably haven’t played enough good football to be there so I am just worried about here [the Dragons]. I’d never say no but we will see what happens.”
St George Illawarra team-mate Zac Lomax has also been mentioned for Blues selection but the 20-year-old also played down his prospects with the Dragons season set to finish in two weeks after failing to make the play-offs.
NSW coach Brad Fittler is a fan of Lomax and has confirmed that the young gun is under consideration for a place in the extended squad but he insisted his focus is on sending interim coach Dean Young out as a winner.
"The Blues team is really good at the moment, you look at the players they have in their squad, they've won two series back to back and that's no fluke,” Lomax said.
"There's some absolute classy players in that team and everyone that's in that squad deserves to be there.
"That'll take care of itself and whatever will be, will be. I'm just worried about being the best teammate I can for the Dragons and just competing play-to-play. We've still got two games to go so that's my focus."
Fittler and Queensland coach Kevin Walters will begin naming players in train-on squads once their club commitments finish but there are fears some may not want to enter another bubble for Origin if they are unlikely to play.
However, Lomax said he would not hesitate if selected in the NSW squad.
“We have done it since we came back so a few more week isn’t going to be a drama,” Lomax said.
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“You want to be able to see your parents, my parents and most of my family is back in Temora, which is a few hours away, so once the bubble is over here at the Dragons obviously I will go home and see my family.
“That will be exciting to be able to get back and see them, but the main focus is to finish these two games on a positive,”
Meanwhile, Dragons forward Jackson Ford said he was keen to play as an edge backrower next season after the departure of Australian and NSW second-rower Tyson Frizell to Newcastle.
Ford has played most of this season at lock but his preference is to play on an edge.
“With Friz leaving next year there is a bit of an opening there so I have just got to rip into the pre-season training and keep putting my foot forward, and hopefully I can develop a spot in the backrow,” Ford said.
“I prefer back row but I’ll play wherever is best for the team and I guess seeing as we have two of the best backrowers in NSW at the moment [Frizell and Tariq Sims] I have just got to keep learning and getting better each week.”