Gold Coast’s Nathan Peats deserves to be part of the selection conversation for the NSW Blues – but is last in the queue.
Danny Buderus, a former Blues hooker and now assistant coach to Brad Fittler, named four players he was keeping a close eye on in the No.9 role for this year’s Holden State of Origin series.
“Everyone is in the conversation, there is no doubt about that,” Buderus told NRL.com.
“Nathan (Peats) is the incumbent and apart from the rib injury last weekend, his form has started to pick up. So hopefully he gets a good run in the next month.
“I’m watching him, Api (Koroisau), (Cameron) McInnes and (Damien) Cook.”
Fittler wasn’t so specific on who he wanted as his dummy-half, but is leaning towards having a hooker as his No.14 on the NSW bench, rather than a utility who can cover halves, the back five and back-row.
“That’s being discussed all the time. I’ve always thought that was a tactic they (previous NSW selectors) haven’t really looked deeply enough into in the past,” Fittler said.
“There’s a big possibility we will go with two hookers.”
Buderus sees the merit in that decision.
“It’s all important who you put in there. We’re considering all options, but it will come back to the way we want to play,” he said.
“If you have someone like Cook or McInnes off the bench, or you start them, it’s one of those things where you have to get the balance right in how you want to play. Api (Koroisau) can be in that equation too.”
Korosiau has previously played in the halves for Manly, as well as being their regular hooker.
Michael Ennis, another former NSW dummy-half who played his last series in 2015, agreed Peats should not be overlooked, but was an unabashed McInnes fan.
“Out of respect he (Peats) certainly deserves to be mentioned. He is the incumbent,” Ennis told NRL.com.
“Do I think Nathan Peats is playing better than Cameron McInnes? No I don’t.
“We know all about Cameron’s work ethic and then we saw his running game the other night with his little kicks close to the line,” Ennis said when closely analysing St George Illawarra’s commanding 40-20 defeat of Cronulla.
“NSW needs a point of attack from dummy-half. Now Nathan Peats will give you plenty of line speed and energy in defence, but you need a kicking game and a running game.
“I just see some real qualities in McInnes. He’s really selfless and willing to do whatever it takes for the team to get the result.
“He’s got a huge amount of ability we are really starting to see flourish.”
Fittler will demand one key ingredient for his 2018 Origin side – being team-orientated.
“It is things like working off the ball…working hard for the (state) jersey. That’s something we have been watching from day one,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things, but putting the jersey first is the most important. When you’re watching games you can see those characteristics. They are there to be found.
“I think the players know that if they’re not putting their club first, they’re not going to get a look-in.”