McCullough has nothing to prove: Bennett

Steve Zemek and Murray Wenzel
Wayne Bennett says Andrew McCullough is ready for State of Origin

For just the second time in 15 years, the Queensland No.9 jumper is up for grabs and Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend have their eyes on the prize on Friday night.

The Brisbane and Sydney Roosters hookers have been pitched into a mouth-watering audition for the Maroons dummy-half role when their NRL sides meet at Suncorp Stadium.

On one side is McCullough, who, if the early mail is to be believed, is the leading contender to take over from Cameron Smith following his shock representative retirement this week.

Up against him is Friend, a premiership-winner who has been seen as Smith's heir apparent and last year toured with Australia during the World Cup.

Both Wayne Bennett and Trent Robinson insist their charges had nothing to prove ahead of the June 6 Origin opener in Melbourne.

Broncos master coach Bennett said McCullough's 10-year NRL career would be the determining factor, not one performance on Friday night.

"He doesn't need a test tomorrow night, he's played over 200 games," Bennett said of the 223-game Bronco workhorse.

"That's the best qualification you can get for Origin.

"He's very, very good, been a wonderful player at this club and hope he gets his opportunity."

Since taking over the Maroons No.9 jersey in game three 2003, Smith missed just one Origin match - when Matt Ballin stepped in for the 2010 series opener.

Friend has at times been criticised for his performance this year however it was later revealed he played through a cracked sternum for four weeks, an effort which typifies his toughness.

He has also made the third-most tackles in the NRL this year with 377 from 10 games, though McCullough has averaged the most with 40.1 from his nine matches.

Roosters mentor Robinson said 223-game player Friend had proven himself time and time again.

"It's insignificant - that choice is out of our hands and in some else's," Robinson said.

"We want to make sure Friendy is developing and proving himself each week. We're right behind him there.

"We want to make sure he's a part of that forward pack that we want to keep pushing."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Brisbane has outscored the Roosters 49-6 in the past four second halves at Suncorp, holding them scoreless in the second half in the past three matches at the venue.

* The Roosters have scored the equal most tries from kicks this season (10) alongside the Storm while Brisbane have conceded the most from kicks (15) this season.

* The Broncos are also trying to avoid conceding 20 points or more in five straight home matches for just the second time in the club's history.