TODD CARNEY has emerged as the leading candidate for the NSW five-eighth jersey this year, with Country Origin officials poised to choose him at No.6 alongside Brett Kimmorley for next Friday’s selection trial at Port Macquarie.The Blues’ halves are expected to come from Country’s deep ranks, which include Carney, Kimmorley, Greg Bird, Trent Barrett, Brett Finch, Jarrod Mullen and Terry Campese, while likely Australian utility Luke Lewis is another option.Carney, who has played fullback for the Sydney Roosters this season, moves to halfback for their match against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Sunday to cover for the injured Mitchell Pearce.It is in the halves that Blues coach Craig Bellamy and Country coach Laurie Daley – also a NSW selector – want Carney tested against City, with Kimmorley firming as favourite to retain his Blues spot by playing alongside him.”That would be the favourite [combination] at this stage,” Country chairman of selectors Jock Colley said. ”Originally, a couple of weeks ago we were looking to play Carney at five-eighth after consultation with Laurie and Craig.”A few things have changed since then but it’s likely he’ll be there. We want to see how he goes this weekend at halfback. He was outstanding at five-eighth for us at Wollongong two years ago but he hasn’t played in the halves in the NRL for two years.”Cronulla captain Barrett is running second to Carney among the five-eighth hopes but Finch, Campese and Mullen are expected to be overlooked by Country selectors. Bird, who has impressed at five-eighth for Gold Coast this season, will be chosen at lock for Country.”We’ve got about 15 halfbacks to chose from,” Colley said. ”We’ll consult with the State of Origin selectors again. You’ve still got to look at Kimmorley because he could well be the State of Origin halfback. We want to win but ultimately for the survival of the game it’s an Origin trial.”City’s halves options are comparatively very thin. With Pearce and Brisbane halfback Peter Wallace sidelined with injuries Manly rookie Trent Hodkinson and Parramatta’s Kris Keating are in line to partner Rabbitoh John Sutton in the halves, although moving Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah from hooker to No.7 is also an option.”With Mitch and Wal going down it does leave City a bit short,” Farah said. ”There’s a couple of young guys they could throw in, they could throw me in there. I haven’t thought about it and haven’t been asked anything about it.”Much of the City-Country selection decisions will depend on who Australian selectors opt for on Sunday for the Test against New Zealand in Melbourne on the same night.Country are likely to grant a representative debut to exciting Canberra fullback Josh Dugan if Kurt Gidley is chosen on the bench for Australia, displacing long-time bush servant Luke Patten. Raiders prop Dane Tilse could be another bolter with fellow Country props Michael Weyman and Josh Perry set to be in action against the Kiwis.
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