VERSATILE: Kurt Gidley.KNIGHTS captain Kurt Gidley is in danger of missing a spot on the NSW bench to Sharks utility Luke Lewis, but Newcastle teammate Willie Mason is in line to return to the Blues after a five-year absence.
Fairfax Media understands Blues selectors are considering overlooking Gidley, who came off the bench in the Anzac Test against New Zealand last month and has played a dozen games for both state and country.
Lewis can play in every position bar fullback and hooker, but given Robbie Farah is a proven 80-minute player, he will not be required to fill in at dummy-half unless there is an injury to the Tigers captain.
Skipper Paul Gallen is expected to wear the No.13 for the Blues in game one, leaving Mason, the Tigers’ Aaron Woods, Canterbury’s Aiden Tolman and incumbent Tim Grant battling to partner James Tamou in the front row.
The debate over selection is sure to intensify before the team is named on Sunday week for game one on Wednesday, June5, in Sydney.
Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita is tipped to have no chance of nabbing a starting jersey but is strongly being considered as a bench option, while in-form Dragons lock Trent Merrin is understood to be looked at as part of Daley’s back-row rotation off the bench.
The Blues coach has scrapped plans to tell players of their selection before the announcement of the side.
‘‘I was thinking about doing it, but then I thought I might be putting the mocker on them,’’ Daley said.
‘‘They might not play well for their club trying not to get injured, so I probably won’t go down that track now.’’
Blues incumbent and Australian winger Brett Morris is not expected to recover from a knee injury in time to play for the Dragons before the NSW team is named, but he may still get picked.
With Jarryd Hayne set to move to fullback to cover for the injured Brett Stewart, Daley is looking at Nathan Merritt (Souths), Aku Uate (Newcastle) and Blake Ferguson (Canberra) for the wing positions, but do not discount Morris.
Daley will get a medical assessment from the Dragons before naming his side and is keen to give Morris every chance to retain his spot on the wing.
His brother Josh, who is guaranteed to partner Michael Jennings in the centres, said it was not out of the question for Brett to recover in time.
‘‘I went down on Sunday for Mother’s Day after we finally got back from New Zealand because of all the fog and he seemed fine and was walking around fine,’’ Josh Morris said.
‘‘He seems to think that maybe in two weeks he’ll be playing a game. I don’t think he’s too worried about the injury at all.’’
Manly back-rower Glenn Stewart missed the opening two months of the season but is also a chance of retaining his spot in the Blues side, despite concerns over his match fitness.
Daley has been transparent with his selection conundrums from his first day in the job and said there was not likely to be a bolter for game one.
‘‘The group I originally had in mind, I don’t think anyone outside of that will come into it,’’ he said. ‘‘The blokes I had my eye on a couple of weeks ago, they are still the ones I’m going to go with.
‘‘They aren’t doing anything wrong and they are playing really well, give or take one or two. But noone will come outside of the box.
‘‘I just think we have got players in form in all positions. For me, that gives me confidence whoever we pick will do a good job.’’