South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett says incumbent NSW halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney should be axed from the State of Origin opener next month.
Bennett stopped short of saying they should be replaced with his red-hot halves Cody Walker and Josh Reynolds, but advised against retaining the out-of-form duo just because of a series win last year.
Cleary and Maloney have struggled to get bottom-placed Penrith going this season and Bennett, who coached Queensland for seven series, said their form won’t change in a Blues jersey.
“I’ll say what no one else wants to say, they cannot pick the halfback and five-eighth from last year,” Bennett said.
“The positions they play, if you think you can go and play an Origin game in that type of form and be stars, it’s not going to happen.
“If they’re forwards then maybe but not key playmakers. They’re all about confidence and you’ve either got it or you haven’t got it.
“The people who matter most need to stop talking about last years’ pairing because they’re terribly out of form.
“Those positions require confidence and belief in yourself and to be playing well week in week out. That’s not happening for them.
“So from my point of view it’s too big a risk and not worth the risk when you’ve got other players that are playing that well and would fit in the team beautifully without a hiccup.
“There are too many quality players in this competition that happen to wear NSW jerseys for those guys to have to be picked.”
Souths ousted Canberra 16-12 to go top of the NRL ladder on Saturday and could have as many as five players picked in Origin.
“I’m not pushing anybody from my club for selection, they’ll get selected on merit,” Bennett said.
“(But) the bottom line is they’re form players, playing great football and full of confidence and there’s nobody they’re going to play in the Queensland team they haven’t played at club level.
“They won’t go into that game lacking confidence because their club form says they’re full of confidence.”