James Maloney is the best playmaker in NSW heading into this year's State of Origin series, Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has declared.
Panthers halves Maloney and Nathan Cleary steered their side to the top of the NRL ladder in a surprise 28-2 rout of St George Illawarra on Saturday.
And their efforts could also land them a prized NSW jumper following two weeks of concerns by the Blues hierarchy over Maloney's defence this season.
"I'm a Queenslander so I hope (Maloney) don't get picked. I think all of Queensland will be hoping he doesn't get picked," Griffin said.
"But I hope he gets there. He's done a tremendous job with our team. He's an experienced playmaker and if he's not there, it'll be great for the club but terrible for Jimmy.
"With my Maroon cap on, I think he's NSW's best playmaker at the moment. He's got to be there."
Maloney admitted he would be disappointed if his name wasn't read out on Monday.
"Not much more I can do now. It's been and done and I've been happy with where my footy is," he said.
However, NSW coach Brad Fittler may have another headache before he unveils his his game one team on Monday after forwards candidate Jack de Belin succumbed to an injury in the defeat.
It's the second time the Dragons lock, who's needed a painkilling injection since injuring his hip against Melbourne in round nine, has failed to finish a match in the past three weeks.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor insisted his star forward would be available to play on June 6.
"Jack de Belin re-injured an injury that he's already got so I'd say he'd be OK," he said.
Canterbury stars Aaron Woods and David Klemmer get a final chance to push their claims against the Wests Tigers on Sunday, as does Cronulla forward Wade Graham against Newcastle.
Blues captain Boyd Cordner hailed the state's depth before what shapes as a interesting series.
"I think the most exciting thing from a NSW point of view is there is so much depth this year with a lot of young talent coming through. Everyone has been in form," Cordner said.