PASSING: Jake Friend of the Roosters during the round 10 NRL match in Auckland last weekend.
PASSING: Jake Friend of the Roosters during the round 10 NRL match in Auckland last weekend. Hannah Peters

Friend made for Origin: ex-Maroons, Roosters utility

RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Queensland and Sydney Roosters utility Chris Flannery believes fellow Sunshine Coast product Jake Friend is a perfect fit for State of Origin.

The 28-year-old has emerged as a contender for the Maroons No. 9 jersey, which has become available after Cameron Smith's shock retirement from representative football.

Flannery suggested Roosters co-captain Friend could certainly do the job if selected.

"I think he'd be fantastic," he said. "I think he's made for Origin.

"He's tough, he gets through a lot of work and when he's playing with that calibre of player around him I think it would lift his game to another level."

A stalwart of 221 NRL appearances who made his debut as an 18-year-old, Friend has plied his trade in the shadow of Smith for the past decade.

"He's got experience and I just think he would be a good fit there," Flannery said.

"He won't let Queensland down, so for his sake I hope he does get an opportunity."

Flannery, who played 10 games for his state and 126 games for the Roosters, believed the rugged rake's form had dipped a bit while playing with a cracked sternum for part of this season.

But he said: "he's a tough character and I think he'd suit Origin."

Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough is expected to be strongly considered, although he has also been troubled by injury this season.

The two are set to collide at Brisbane on Friday, when the Broncos host the Roosters, in what could be a showdown for the Queensland role.

Cowboys dummy-half Jake Granville could also be among those in the mix.

"This is their chance and I'm sure whoever does get their opportunity is going to take it with both hands because they've been waiting a long time for this day to come," Flannery said.

Sunshine Coaster and Queensland State of Origin legend Billy Moore told Fox Sports which way he would go.

"Jake Friend is my frontrunner because he has a bit more experience and is a more similar player to Cameron Smith compared to the other two," he said on Tuesday.

"Friend sat behind Smith in the Australian squad at times, so he is the next cab off the rank.

"He's defensively brilliant and sound around the ruck.

"While he's not going to be explosive out of dummy-half, neither is Cameron Smith."

Flannery said Friend could even be considered for a role on the interchange bench.

The prospective hookers will likely get two matches to press their claims before the team is named for game one of this year's series.


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