Terry Campese’s hopes of resurrecting his New South Wales Origin career have received a huge boost, with the Canberra star named in coach Ricky Stuart’s emerging Blues squad.
Campese, fellow Raiders playmaker Josh McCrone and feisty Warriors five-eighth James Maloney are the three most intriguing selections among this year’s 23 hopefuls that Stuart believes can pressure his incumbents.
Despite having played just one half of football before re-injuring his knee last June, Campese has been given a heartening vote of confidence to earn an Origin recall from his lone appearance in 2009.
Stuart also showed enormous faith in the latest Blues scrumbase combination – Jamie Soward and Mitchell Pearce – during last year’s series, keeping the pairing for all three games.
But the reality of a seventh straight series loss will again prompt debate over who should steer the NSW attack opposite Maroons duo Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
Focused on his long-awaited comeback in next month’s Albury trial against Melbourne Storm, Campese was not even aware the squad was on the verge of assembling until rumblings reached him earlier this week.
Along with Raiders teammates Jarrod Croker, Joel Thompson, Blake Ferguson and McCrone, the 27-year-old will travel up theHume Highwayto the Blues traditional base in Coogee next weekend.
Manly youngster Darcy Lussick, Gold Coast Titans excitement machine Ryan James and Wests Tigers utility Tim Moltzen will be other notable attendees at the camp, which is also expected to include input from NSW greats such as Steve Roach and Trent Barrett.
“I’ve just been trying to work on my injuries and get back in the best possible shape for the trials, so I didn’t even know about the camp,” Campese said.
“When I was told I was pretty surprised, but it’s great to be in there. My focus is still definitely on coming back forCanberra, but a few of the other boys who went to last year’s camp said it was really good to know you’re on the radar,” he said.
Stuart has significantly trimmed down the squad from last year’s inaugural group, which numbered 51 players and included several Toyota Cup prodigies with zero NRL experience.
He’s also put a greater focus on the front-row, another area the Blues have struggled to match their rivals – with the exception of skipper Paul Gallen’s remarkable cameo in Origin II last year.
Of the 12 forwards selected, eight are props and Dragons bookend Trent Merrin is the only one with Origin experience.
Manly giant Tony Williams is another inclusion.
Emerging Blues Squad
by Buford Balony