OVER THE LINE? Jake Friend, in action for the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, could be in line for a State of Origin berth.
OVER THE LINE? Jake Friend, in action for the Roosters at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, could be in line for a State of Origin berth. Mark Kolbegetty Images

Hill endorses Friend as Origin possibility

RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Noosa junior and current Sydney Roosters hooker Jake Friend has been given a ringing Origin endorsement from an unlikely source.

Scott Hill, a former Blues and Kangaroos lock and five-eighth says he would have Friend on the Maroons bench for the Origin opener at ANZ Stadium on May 27.

"I would really look at playing him (Friend) off the bench rather than (Daly) Cherry-Evans," Hill said yesterday.

Meanwhile, former Queensland and Roosters utility and current Sunshine Coast Falcons CEO Chris Flannery believed Friend would have to be close to being the first choice to replace current Maroons hooker Cameron Smith, should the Melbourne and Australian star be rubbed out of the series opener.

Smith will come under scrutiny from the NRL Match Review Committee after kicking Rabbitohs hooker Isaac Luke in the face during the Storm's 16-12 win.

Flannery said he felt Friend would be an able replacement for the Storm superstar, should be ruled out, and said he felt for Friend, who was unable to crack the Maroons side, stuck behind the inspirational Smith despite Friend enjoying an excellent past two seasons.

"It's a bit unlucky because it's just Friendy coming through at a time when one of the greatest players ever is in his place," Flannery said.

"It's a tough one for Jake, I feel for him not being able to come into the side with Smithy ahead of him, but Smithy's still churning out the full games each week."

Flannery also weighed in on the question of whether Cherry-Evans had done enough to secure a bench spot for the Queensland side looking to reclaim the Origin crown.

"I was thinking Ben Hunt on the bench ahead of last night (Saturday night)," Flannery said yesterday.

"He'd be a good player to bring off the bench, but I think Cherry-Evans played pretty well, from all reports last night."

While question marks remain over whether local lad Matt Gillett would retain his Origin spot, by far the biggest questions in the lead-up to this year's series have been over the makeup of the NSW Blues side, minus superstar Jarryd Hayne and with skipper Paul Gallen sidelined for Game One.

Hill said he wasn't sure which way Blues selectors would lean with the halves; however, he said he had concerns over whether Roosters' halfback Mitchell Pearce was the answer.

"If Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs) hadn't broken his hand I would've picked him," Hill said.

Hill said he would also take the chance to blood more youth, and said if he were a selector, he would find it difficult to leave Canberra five-eighth Blake Austin out of the Blues side, after his stellar start to the season.

"I'd really play him at six. He's performed well for Canberra and he played well in that City-Country game. There's a point in time where they've just got to make some decisions and stick some younger guys in there," Hill said.