NSW State of Origin incumbent James Maloney admits being surprised by suggestions he has shown a lack of enthusiasm towards rookie coach Brad Fittler in the lead-up to this year's series.
The Penrith star was widely considered a lock to retain his spot Blues spot until this week, when selection adviser Greg Alexander spoke publicly of concerns over Maloney's defensive issues.
A News Corporation report added further fuel, questioning Maloney's attitude two weeks before teams are named for game one in Melbourne.
"Freddie spoke to me a few times in the lead-up to things about different things, just about stuff in my game," Maloney said.
"It's probably surprised me, the talk, because it's been no convos like that with Freddie. That surprises me because all the chats I've had with Freddie have been really good.
"Everything we've spoken about, I've been on board with what he was talking about."
Maloney's comments come as speculation reaches fever pitch about the make-up of Fittler's first team, having succeeded Laurie Daley.
Alexander has confirmed a number of new faces are likely as the Blues distance themselves from the pain of losing 11 of the past 12 series.
He says the NSW brains trust has whittled 40-50 initial candidates to about 20, with pretty much only the hooker to be decided.
Maloney believes experience is still vital in the interstate arena.
"Where it comes, I don't know the whole make up of the side. No doubt there will be blokes who had experience there before. There will be fresh guys," he said.
"At the end of the day, Freddie is coming into the job and if it doesn't work out he's going to be the one under fire so he'll have the side he wants. That's how its got to be.
"His head's on the chopping block, that's how the industry goes and how footy is."
The 31-year-old considers himself worthy of another crack following a strong start to the season at the Panthers, where he has steered them to second on the table despite the absence of Nathan Cleary.
Cleary made a successful return from a knee injury in Thursday's win over the Wests Tigers.
"I've been there before and don't think I've played too badly when I've been there," he said.
"I understand when you don't get the job you've got no real right to get it the next year. I'm a big believer in that because you haven't done the job.
"(But) that's what they're saying - they're going to pick on form so hopefully my form is good."