(L-R) St George's Cameron McInnes and South Sydney's Damien Cook are front runners to play hooker for NSW in Origin I.
(L-R) St George's Cameron McInnes and South Sydney's Damien Cook are front runners to play hooker for NSW in Origin I.

Brandy baptises NSW No. 9, criticises Cordner

A DECISION on who will wear NSW's No. 9 jersey has already been made, according to Greg Alexander.

And the Blues adviser doesn't expect anything to change the selectors' minds before the team is named for June 6's State of Origin opener. But that was all Alexander was willing to give away as speculation mounted over who would get the hooker nod between South Sydney's Damien Cook, St George Illawarra's Cameron McInnes and Manly's Apisai Koroisau.

Asked if NSW had already made a decision on their No. 9, Alexander told Fox Sports' NRL 360: "Yes." Alexander then revealed he didn't expect selectors to alter their call after this weekend's NRL action before the team was named.

"I don't think so, no," he said.

But Alexander was coy when asked if NSW were considering picking two form hookers and using one on the bench against Queensland.

"No, you can't push it (question) further," Alexander laughed.

Alexander did reveal Koroisau had the early running for the NSW gig but hinted at a two-way race between McInnes and Cook before Blues selectors reveal their team next week.

Koroisau has been denied a final chance to impress NSW selectors this weekend before the team is named after copping a one-match ban for being third man in during a last round melee against Melbourne.

"It has been a race in three since the start of the season," Alexander said. "Koroisau at the start of the season I thought may have been ahead of both Cook and McInnes but Api has suffered a bit with Manly having that run of five losses.

"That doesn't take away what Api can bring to a team. I think he is a great No. 9 but McInnes and Cook have continually lifted the bar.

"They were both very good on the weekend.

"Damien Cook has obviously been reading the paper, listening to what people are saying about his chances (judging by his form)."

The three men who are battling it out to wear the NSW No. 9 jersey (L-R) Cameron McInnes, Api Koroisau and Damien Cook.
The three men who are battling it out to wear the NSW No. 9 jersey (L-R) Cameron McInnes, Api Koroisau and Damien Cook.

Alexander says Phil Gould was right to criticise Blues skipper Boyd Cordner ahead of the State of Origin series opener.

But Alexander believed the Blues back-rower still had plenty to offer in 2018. Cordner came under fire before the Blues team is named next week for June 6's Origin I in Melbourne, earning the ire of Phil Gould.

The former Blues coach claimed he wouldn't select Cordner for the Origin opener because the Sydney Roosters star's game had stagnated.

Cordner admitted this week he had been stunned by the comments from the Blues' most successful coach but Alexander believed Gould's call was warranted. "I agree with some of them (comments) in part," Alexander told Fox Sports.

"I think Boyd was struggling for the opening month and a half, even two months of the premiership.

"His performances have improved over the last couple of weeks dramatically compared to what he was doing in the opening two months."

Gould questioned the impact of Cordner - a veteran of nine Origins and 16 Tests - at representative level and said St George Illawarra second-rower Tariq Sims was in better form.

He also claimed he would choose James Maloney as Blues skipper. While critical of Cordner, Alexander hinted that the Roosters star would still get a nod for Origin I.

 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — MAY 18: Boyd Cordner of the Roosters is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on May 18, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — MAY 18: Boyd Cordner of the Roosters is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the round 11 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on May 18, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

 

"You don't overlook Origin players if they are down in form a little bit," he said.

"I think Gus (Gould) had every right to question Boyd's form (but) I think Boyd has a lot more to offer than what he has been coached to offer at the Roosters."

Queensland great Billy Moore surprisingly defended Cordner's disappointing 2018 numbers after early season title favourites the Roosters limped to seventh place after 11 NRL rounds.

"It's a bit of mind games," Moore said of Gould's crack at Cordner. "If you look at his numbers you can slightly justify that his metres are down because he is playing in a side that is not going quite as well.

"But Boyd brings something extra than just those metres. He brings stability to a team that is going to have a lot of debutants.

"You need some concrete to a team, a leader and that is what he will bring to the team.

"He will always rise to the occasion in a big game."

 

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