CHAMPION Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston is surprised NSW dumped halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, but he says their replacements, Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds, have been given an opportunity to make heroes of themselves.
The Bulldogs duo was yesterday confirmed as coach Laurie Daley's new scrum-base schemers as NSW plotted to pull the pin on a ninth straight State of Origin series victory by Thurston's Queensland.
Hodkinson and Reynolds steered the Bulldogs to their seventh successive NRL victory at the weekend, when they beat the Warriors, which helped clinch their call-ups to replace the underperforming Roosters combination.
"I'm a little bit surprised they didn't go with Pearcy, but they see this as a new combination, and their future," Thurston said.
"It's a very tough arena to come into, but the Dogs are leading the comp so at least those two boys will be very confident."
Thurston, arguably the most competitive player in the NRL and lining up for Origin game No.28, said Reynolds had continued to grow and mature as a playmaker over the past few seasons and Hodkinson was now playing his best football.
"It's not really surprising to me the Dogs are going really well but we will have to see how they go under the pressure of Origin," he said.
Giant Sydney Roosters winger Daniel Tupou has also forced his way into his maiden Blues Origin jumper on the back of some great games and spectacular tries.
He will add more zing to an already potent NSW backline boasting brilliant fullback Jarryd Hayne, the Morris brothers, Brett and Josh, and speedster Michael Jennings as attacking weapons.
NSW selectors also recalled respected Newcastle forward Beau Scott, who missed last year's series, along with barnstorming 120kg Bulldogs back-rower Tony Williams, who has been in damaging form for the Dogs in their seven-game charge.
Jarryd Hayne (Eels), Brett Morris (Dragons), Josh Morris (Bulldogs) Michael Jennings (Roosters), Daniel Tupou (Roosters) Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs), Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs), Aaron Woods (Tigers), Robbie Farah (Tigers), James Tamou (Cowboys), Ryan Hoffman (Storm) Beau Scott (Knights), Paul Gallen (Sharks), Int: Trent Merrin (Dragons), Anthony Watmough (Sea Eagles), Luke Lewis (Sharks), Tony Williams (Bulldogs).
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