Queensland star Ben Hunt admits his chances of retaining his State of Origin jumper are likely to hinge on St George Illawarra making the NRL finals this year.
Despite playing at halfback for the Dragons, Hunt was one of the Maroons' best in the unfamiliar position of hooker in their agonising series loss to NSW in 2019.
However the Kangaroos representative fears his prized Origin jumper could be ripped from him if the Dragons don't make a deep finals run.
The coronavirus has not only resulted in a shortened NRL campaign, but delayed the Origin series from its traditional mid-season timeslot to the post-season.
Sydney Roosters co-captain Jake Friend was a serious candidate to play No.9 for the Maroons before heartbreakingly rupturing his biceps before game one last year.
And with the Roosters looking to claim a third straight premiership, Hunt identified Friend as a major threat to his Origin spot.
"If coaches are smart, and I'm pretty sure if you're coaching at Origin level, you are, you're going to be taking into account that some blokes are going to be a bit underdone if they're not making the finals," Hunt said on Tuesday.
"Take myself for example playing nine.
"If you've got someone that's playing pretty good nine as well, Jakey Friend's playing pretty good footy, you're probably going to be taking him if he goes deep into the finals."
St George Illawarra are one of six teams who started their campaign 0-2 before the season was suspended by the coronavirus in March.
But they'll begin the resumption of the season against two teams who also failed to secure a win over the opening fortnight.
Paul McGregor's side visit the Warriors in Gosford on Saturday, May 30, before meeting Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium the following week.
"We've got to come out and perform straight away," Hunt said.
"If we come out and lose the first two, we're 0-4 and definitely a longshot of making the finals then with a shortened competition.
"The pressure's definitely on but we're up to the challenge."