Moses was pencilled in for NSW: Fittler

Matt Encarnacion
Mitchell Moses is in contention to lead NSW in Origin after guiding the Eels to a 5-0 season start

NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has revealed Mitchell Moses was pencilled in to be the Blues halfback the year he got the job in 2018.

The series might be four months away, but Moses has rocketed into NSW calculations after spearheading Parramatta to its best start in over 30 years.

The Eels are a perfect five-from-five to begin the season and sit atop the ladder, with Moses also among the leaders on the Dally M count.

He is one of a plethora of NSW halves to dominate the top of the table, including Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce and Penrith star Nathan Cleary.

Moses' form hasn't escaped the attention of Fittler, who admitted earmarking the electric No.7 for the Blues when he took on the role over two years ago.

"A couple of years ago, I got the job off the back of coaching Lebanon and Mitch was a star," Fittler said on The Sunday Footy Show.

"Not just on the field, he was incredible off the field as well. He then went and had that pretty ordinary season for Parramatta (in 2018), didn't have a great start.

"He was pencilled in as the (NSW) halfback from the start, just off my experience with the Lebanon team."

However Fittler conceded the job is likely Cleary's to lose.

The Panthers halfback made a solid return from his controversial two-game ban for flouting social distancing laws in Friday's six-point loss to Moses' Eels.

It was Penrith's first defeat of the season, resulting in their drop to fifth spot.

Cleary was part of the Blues' breakthrough series win in 2018 and played the opening two games last year before injury ruled him out of the decider.

That was when Pearce stepped up for a memorable victory.

Newcastle remain in the top four despite also suffering their first defeat of the season when they were outdone 26-12 by Melbourne on Saturday.

Fittler likes the cohesiveness Cleary brings to an Origin team stacked with skill.

"With so much talent in the team, we needed someone like Nathan to fill the holes and do a job and he's been fantastic for State of Origin," he said.

"The thing about (Pearce) is his defence is so good. I know him so well and was I so thrilled to get him back into the team.

"Nathan most probably has his nose in front given the fact he had the job and then got injured and the system we pick the team, that's the way it works.

"I don't think we have been in this good a position for NSW where the top three teams in the competition are our halfbacks."

In other games in round eight, Manly came back from 18 points down to stun Brisbane by two, while the Warriors defeated North Queensland 37-26.

Latrell Mitchell produced arguably his best performance so far South Sydney in their 32-12 victory over Gold Coast, while Canberra edged the Wests Tigers 14-6.

St George Illawarra also finally claimed their first win of the season with a 30-16 triumph over Cronulla, released a heap of pressure on coach Paul McGregor.

A coronavirus scare forced the league to postpone Sunday's match between Canterbury and Sydney Roosters until Monday night.