Canterbury duo Brett Morris and James Graham will be given until the last minute to prove their fitness ahead of Monday’s clash against St George Illawarra.
It will be Morris’ only chance to prove to NSW coach Laurie Daley he is over a troublesome hamstring issue that forced him on the sidelines since Round 5, before the Blues team is announced next Tuesday for Origin II.
Graham played just one match since the epic Good Friday defeat to South Sydney, a 27-minute cameo against the Roosters in Round 10 that was ended by concussion and a knee injury.
While both are expected to be named by coach Des Hasler on Tuesday evening they will be racing the clock to prove their fitness.
Veteran Sam Perrett said he was hopeful both players would be cleared for the clash against the NRL ladder-leaders.
“Fingers crossed. We’ve been watching the boys doing their fitness testing and they’re looking really good,” he said.
“We’ve got good medical staff there. They’re going to do everything they can to get out there.”
Should Morris be cleared to come back, it will be his first game against his former club since moving to Belmore over the summer.
The 28-year-old missed the 31-6 mauling they copped from the Dragons in Round 6.
“This’ll be a big one if he can make it back for this, definitely,” Perrett said.
“Anyone – if you play against your old club, you always bring out your best for them and you want to give your old mates a good run.”
However the biggest impact Morris’ return could make is on the make-up of Daley’s side for their must-win Origin clash in Melbourne.
Arguably the best winger in the world and a veteran of over 10 Origin appearances, a fit Morris would be a huge injection of speed and experience for the Blues team that badly lacked both in the series-opener.
But Perrett said his teammate would probably have to prove his hamstring could withstand the rigours of NRL football after his lengthy stint on the sidelines.
“His focus is definitely at club level first and getting everything right there. Origin and representative footy doesn’t happen if you’re not performing at club level,” he said.
Graham has played just the one game since the epic Good Friday defeat to South Sydney, a 27-minute cameo against the Roosters in Round 10 that was ended by concussion and a knee injury.
The Bulldogs captain missed the side’s last-start win over the Raiders but centre Tim Lafai said the long turnaround would give both Morris and Graham every chance of taking the field.