Craig Bellamy is backing debutant James Maloney to shine in the NSW five-eighths role, although he's still surprised Todd Carney was bumped from the job.
Maloney is set to play his first State of Origin match tonight after ousting Cronulla's Carney from the role he held for last year's losing series.
Preparing for his Melbourne Storm to host the Sharks on Sunday, Bellamy - the NSW coach from 2008 to 2010 - said he thought the prodigiously talented Carney would keep the No 6 jersey.
But he felt Blues coach Daley knew how to pick a winner.
"I was a little bit surprised because I thought the experience that [Carney] got last year would have been very handy for the NSW team," Bellamy said yesterday.
"But James Maloney, the way he plays his footy, he's a real Origin player and there's no better person to pick the NSW five-eighths than Laurie Daley."
Daley was tossed into the Origin furnace in 1989 when he was just 20, although he then played in the centres.
He shifted to five-eighths with the Raiders a year later, wearing the NSW jersey for a decade.
The 26-year-old started his NRL career at Melbourne but made only four first-grade appearances in 2009 with Cooper Cronk and Brett Finch blocking his progress and forcing a move to the Warriors.
He joined the Sydney Roosters this year - his partnership with NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce being a catalyst for his NSW selection.
"He really kicked on over there with the Warriors and had a couple of tremendous seasons and it looks like he's gone to another level with the Roosters," Bellamy said.
"He's obviously worked very hard. He didn't have an easy ride and now he's got the ultimate reward, playing for NSW. I'm sure he will make a good stick of it; he's a tough, gritty player and he's got skills and a good kicking game."
Bellamy played with Daley at Canberra and said he had what it took to break the seven-year winning drought. "I know behind closed doors he's a very competitive person and he'll have them fired up and ready for tomorrow night."
Old master Meninga comes up against new boy Daley
Meninga has gone from being one of the finest players of all time to the most successful State of Origin coach in history. Has guided the Maroons to seven straight series win and although he's had some of the modern game's finest talents at his disposal, his role in turning around Queensland's fortunes after several lean years should never be underestimated. His mind-game battles with former NSW coach Ricky Stuart were always entertaining and proof he will never take a step back.
Daley was a high-class act as a player for both state and country and although this is his first Origin as coach, he has been part of several camps as an assistant to the likes of Phil Gould and Ricky Stuart. One of league's nice guys, who played alongside Meninga in the Canberra Raiders, but underneath that relaxed, calm persona lies a ruthless streak and a born leader who was handed the captaincy of a star-studded Blues side when he was just 22.
Mal Meninga (QLD)
*Born: Bundaberg, Qld.
*Origins played: 32.
*Origins coached (since 2006): 21.
*Series win-loss as coach: 7-0.
*Matches win-loss as coach: 15-6.
*Other coaching roles: Canberra 1997-01.
Laurie Daley (NSW)
*Born: Junee, NSW.
*Origins played: 23.
*Origins coached: 0.
*Other coaching roles: NSW Country Origin, 2008-12, Indigenous All Stars 2011-13.
State of Origin
*Sydney, tonight, SS 2 from 9.30pm