Origin fight for NSW nines, Payten backs Dearden recall

The State of Origin subplot will be front and centre when Reece Robson and Api Koroisau do battle in Townsville.

North Queensland rake Robson and Wests Tigers maestro No.9 Koroisau are two main contenders for the NSW hooking role in the State of Origin season opener in Sydney on June 5.

Friday night's match is also a notable one for Cowboys co-captain Tom Dearden, who is likely to be named Queensland five-eighth in place of injured Cameron Munster and edge out Brisbane's Ezra Mam.

Koroisau started game one of last year's series before getting injured. Robson was No.9 in game two on Origin debut before coming off the bench in game three when Damien Cook got the nod.

"I could very well be a (NSW dress rehearsal). Both are very good players and both played a part in last year's series," Cowboys coach Todd Payten said.

"I'd be surprised if the team is not decided already but whoever plays well in this occasion will do their chances no harm."

Cowboys No.6 Dearden did a stellar job on Origin debut in 2022 in a 22-12 win for the Maroons when Munster was out.

"Tom has been in our best three players every week and I would be highly surprised if he doesn't get the opportunity to do it again," Payten said.

"Queensland talk about being competitors and the underdog and fighting for everything, and that is Tommy."

Daly Cherry-Evans with Tom Dearden.
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans (L) celebrates Queensland's 2022 game-three win with debutant Tom Dearden. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

North Queensland ended a five-game losing run with a 28-22 win over South Sydney last week. It was far from convincing but a huge confidence boost.

"We had to fight really hard at the end and competed until the very last play to get over the line," Payten said.

"That built confidence.We didn't win the game on brains or decision making but we won it on will to win and sheer effort.

"You always have to put yourself in the contest and the detail around what we want to do will ice our games."

The Tigers are in a form slump and will be striving to break a seven-game losing streak.