NSW coach Laurie Daley accepts throwing rookie halves combination Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds into the State of Origin cauldron at Suncorp Stadium next week is a selection gamble.
Daley yesterday dumped his 2013 halves pairing, Sydney Roosters duo Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, for Origin I next Wednesday in the 100th interstate clash in favour of Hodkinson, who will make his Blues debut, and Reynolds, who have been instrumental in Canterbury's charge to the top of the NRL ladder.
Hodkinson and Reynolds are in career-best form and presented an irresistible case for selection according to Daley, against a Queensland side chasing an unprecedented ninth successive series win.
"I think in terms of a gamble, it is always a calculated gamble," Daley said.
"I don't think you ever throw someone in without thinking through the whole puzzle.
"For us, while we all want short-term success, I think a part of my job is to create a team that is not only going to sustain pressure for the short term but to build success for the long term.
"That may take time but it is what we need to do."
Daley said Pearce's Kings Cross arrest and the Roosters' poor form cost the premiership-winning halves duo their NSW jerseys.
"It is always a tough decision to change halves but, in the best interest of the team, I thought it was necessary," Daley said.
"Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds are playing extremely well. They are playing in a team that is leading the competition.
"They are in career-best form. I thought it was important that we had that combination there."
"The Roosters haven't been travelling that well; they have had their issues - their halves not playing as well as they would like to.
"It is exciting for Trent and Josh. I know they will grab it and go with it - they will feel comfortable by game time."
Roosters flyer Daniel Tupou will also make his NSW debut on the wing.
Beau Scott and Ryan Hoffman were chosen in the second-row in place of unavailable duo Greg Bird (suspension) and Boyd Cordner (ankle injury).
Bulldogs back-rower Tony Williams has been welcomed back to the Origin stage after missing last year's series through poor form.
Slater: I knew I'd play
Queensland fullback Billy Slater never felt his position in the Maroons' line-up was under threat despite Greg Inglis' stellar form in the No1 jersey for South Sydney.
The Melbourne custodian has been named at fullback for next week's series opener in Brisbane and says he was always confident that would be the outcome once he had regained full fitness from the knee injury sustained in last year's World Cup.
While Slater had a slow start to the season with the Storm, Inglis was shining for the Rabbitohs including his remarkable 89m solo try against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium where he beat six Broncos in an astonishing display of speed and power.
That display in particular had tongues wagging, with ex-Maroons star Steve Renouf leading the call for Inglis to move to fullback at Slater's expense for the May 28 Origin opener against NSW.
Not that Slater paid much attention to that talk.
"Only running for two weeks prior to round one certainly wasn't ideal for me coming back from a knee injury," Slater said. "I knew once I got fit and my knee kept improving, I'd get back to my standard of football. Obviously, Greg's a great player.
"I've played alongside Greg for nearly 10 years so I'm very conscious of what he's capable of and I'm just glad he's in our side and I'm there as well.'
Queensland v NSW
Suncorp Stadium, 10.15pm May 28
Queensland: Daly Cherry-Evans, Aidan Guerra, Ben Te'o, Josh Papalii.
Paul Gallen (c)
NSW: Anthony Watmough, Tony Williams, Trent Merrin, Luke Lewis.