Bulldogs laud their Origin Quartet
It's too easy to point out that the team most represented in Laurie Daley's NSW side is the same one leading the NRL.
It's also too simple, too lazy, to trivialise the quartet of Bulldogs selections on that basis. In a state never short of Origin agendas, you could build a case for most of them not to be picked.
Josh Reynolds has got too many errors in him; Trent Hodkinson hasn't got enough experience in him; and as for Tony Williams, well he only popped back on the radar three weeks ago.
But if Blues fans take them at face-value, if they're – dare we say it – optimistic with this line-up, then they might be able to escape a defeatist mentality for a moment and see what kind of Bulldogs they’re really getting. Namely, a try-saving centre; a giant second-rower who's just about in the form of his life; and two halves that have had more Cooper Cronk moments this year than Cronk himself.
"T-Rex is playing the best footy I've seen him play since he's come [to Belmore]," Canterbury teammate Tim Browne said.
"He's been under a lot of pressure from the public over the last couple of years but he's playing some of the best footy I've seen him play in a long time."
This is the same bloke who teammates had to defend his output by saying they used him mainly as a decoy in attack.
"It's a key role," Browne laughed.
"But it's good to find him with the ball. He's a big human and gee he's been doing some damage over the last couple of weeks."
Morris, on the verge of playing his ninth game in a Blues jumper, is a classy centre who needs no introduction. Not after his club skipper Michael Ennis described Sunday’s match-saving try on a flying Shaun Johnson as the play of the season.
Reynolds is the Bulldogs personified. His terrier-like playing style will be of excellent nuisance to Queensland's natural time-warpers in Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
"This year will really suit him having had that taste last year," Browne said.
"He's going to bring a lot of energy, excitement and enjoyment to the team. Off the field, he's everything that you see on it."
But the most intriguing selection of all has been the player most crucial to the Bulldogs' run to the top of the NRL tree.
They've handed Trent Hodkinson the cheesy and unoriginal nickname of 'Mr Cool' out at Belmore, a distinction credited to his match-winning heroics with the boot.
There's also his well-publicised comeback from a string of shoulder injuries, stem cell surgeries on his knee and mental hurdles he's had to leap simply to establish himself as a bona fide NRL player.
But his biggest attribute, his teammates will tell you, is his no-fear approach to defence. His willingness to put his body in front of every single opposition player with eyes zoned in on the Bulldogs' smallest man.
"He's one of the better defending halfbacks in the comp," second-rower Josh Jackson said.
"His 'D' is really good – it's a credit to him. Obviously Queensland will be sending a fair bit of traffic his way, they've got a great team – but it's a waste of time. He just puts his body in front of people and does his best. He's pretty good at it."
Nothing beats a cold-blooded match-winner though. And having watched an endless list of Maroons raise their hands during the clutch moments of the past eight years, Hodkinson's bevy of game-deciding plays this season gives him every right to be picked for Origin.
"That's his key attribute – how calm he is when he's under pressure," says former NSW Origin winger Steve Turner.
"Those two field goals he kicked against the Warriors and against the Bunnies, he kicked last year against Manly at golden point extra time, the penalty goal. I think 2010, he kicked two field goals against Parramatta, he done it for Manly when he was there ... so he certainly doesn't crack under pressure. He's 'Mr Cool', as a few of the boys like to call him."
‘This story first appeared on NRL.com’