BIG FUTURE: Penrith’s ball-playing forward Bryce Cartwright (centre) could play himself into the NSW team for Origin I
BIG FUTURE: Penrith’s ball-playing forward Bryce Cartwright (centre) could play himself into the NSW team for Origin I PAUL MILLER

Bryce is right on track to be man from uncle

Bryce Cartwright has set tongues wagging with Penrith this season, and a big representative debut for City against Country at the weekend could be enough for him to follow in his uncle John’s footsteps in a Blues Origin jumper next month.

Cartwright senior, a lanky, off-loading back-rower who played eight Origin games for New South Wales in the 1980s and ’90s, would admit he didn’t have the playmaking skills of his 21-year-old nephew, who has emerged as one of the most exciting and creative forwards in the game.

Slightly taller than his famous relative, Bryce Cartwright is just the type of player NSW coach Laurie Daley is looking for off his bench to test Queensland’s defence in the heat of Origin when gaps begin to open up.

Cartwright is one of 10 rookies in coach Brad Fittler’s City side which will be skippered by Tigers forward Chris Lawrence.

Country has named a strong squad under former Sydney Roosters representative forward Craig Fitzgibbon, with an interesting halves pairing of Cronulla teammates Jack Bird at No.7 and James Maloney at No.6.

Maloney has been in terrific form for the Sharks, who have won their past six games, including a gritty 30-28 victory over Brisbane at the weekend, sparking speculation he could regain his NSW Origin jumper.

With Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce making a successful comeback from his club-imposed suspension at the weekend, Daley has another tough selection choice a month out from Origin I in Sydney.

Maloney last played Origin in game three of the 2013 series, but Fitzgibbon said Daley could do worse than throw the playmaker a fourth blue jumper for game one in Sydney on June 1.

With Cronulla teammate Michael Ennis also staking a strong claim for Blues selection, Fitzgibbon acknowledged he was a Maloney fan, adding the former Rooster could get the job done for NSW.

“Jimmy is a larrikin, but he played his way straight into the (Country) team. He did a fantastic job last year and he’ll be captain again this year,” Fitzgibbon said.

“He’s playing exceptional (football) for the Sharks, and knowing him from my time at the Roosters I can tell you how excited he is to play.”

Fitzgibbon has already been forced to make a change to his side with Cowboy Rory Kostjasyn replacing injured Dragons hooker Mitch Rein.

Meanwhile Fittler said he wasn’t impressed he couldn’t get the team he wanted because several NRL clubs had not fully co-operated by making players available.

His frustrations continued when outstanding young Manly forward Jake Trbojevic failed a fitness test and was replaced by Tigers winger David Nofoaluma.