New South Wales State of Origin coach Brad Fittler is reportedly considering a shock move in the opening game of the series by having Jarome Luai spend time at hooker.
The move follows the decision to dump Damien Cook from the Origin side, with Apisai Koroisau - on the back of an excellent last month at the Wests Tigers - selected as the only specialist hooker.
It has become a necesity at Origin level in recent years to have two players able to play dummy half, with fatigue across 80 minutes proving too much for even the best the game has to offer.
It's a strategy Queensland - and in turn Australia - have used with great effect, having regular St George Illawarra Dragons' halfback Ben Hunt start in the role, before Harry Grant explodes off the bench.
Hunt is then able to play other roles while covering for the halves and backline if there are any injuries.
It's a strategy the Blues now seem hellbent on following, with both Nicho Hynes and Jarome Luai spending time at dummy half during training on Tuesday according to News Corp's David Riccio.
“I was down at Coogee today watching the Blues train and there definitely was a bit of a mixture in terms of Hynes playing a little bit of dummy half, Jarome Luai passing off the deck as well which was interesting,” Riccio said on Fox Sports' NRL360.
“Personally, Jarome has the most versatility in his game.
“When he came into first grade he started in the centres, he played in the halves, he jumped around at dummy half, Jarome Luai did.
“Personally I believe the Blues will head down that path before Nicho Hynes, yet at the same time they have the ability and are considering having all three halves on the field on the same time running an all-out attack.”
While defending in the middle could be a stretch for both players, Hynes in particular has become one of the better defensive halves in the competition, and his time spent at fullback and other positions during his stint with the Melbourne Storm could prime him to defend there, even if Luai were to attack in the number nine role for specific portions of the game.
Luai's selection in the side ahead of Hynes - who will come off the bench - surprised plenty, with Hynes the game's best player over the last 18 months.
Ultimately, Fittler went with the combination of Nathan Cleary and Luai in the halves, who have not only played the last two Origin series for the Blues, but also won back-to-back premierships at the Panthers to go with a grand final appearance the year before that.
Origin 1 will be played on May 31 in Adelaide.
“It is a strategy the Blues now seem hellbent on following, with both Nicho Hynes and Jarome Luai spending time at dummy half during training on Tuesday ”
That’s a really dumb strategy. When Api comes off after 60 minutes replace him with Hynes who never plays 9, or Luai who never plays 9 and who has already played 60 minutes.
Best strategy is to send Hynes back from the squad and replace him with a genuine hooker like Cooke.
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