By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
NSW coach Laurie Daley may have gone with a drastically revamped playing roster for this year's Origin series but the chance for a few old friendships to be rekindled has helped the squad click quicker than it may have otherwise.
Almost the entire left edge consists of reunited Roosters, with current Bondi local Boyd Cordner playing inside of Cronulla's James Maloney and Parramatta's Michael Jennings. All three played alongside each other in red, white and blue from 2013-15.
The man outside that, Josh Mansour, is pumped to be making his Origin debut outside the very same centre he made his NRL debut outside of in one-time Panther Jennings.
"I debuted outside 'Jenko' so it's good to be reunited with him. Me and him are pretty good mates off the field as well so it's a pretty exciting time, I can't wait to put on the Blues jersey beside him," Mansour said from Blues camp in Coffs Harbour.
"Especially with Matty at the back there. As a winger it really helps me play and be confident out there and to have Jenko who's one of the best centres in the game playing inside me as well is very helpful."
Mansour was quick to point out the combination slightly further infield.
"Yeah it's the old Rooster connection as well apart from me so they've played together before and I'm sure they know each other's qualities in defence and attack and it will be good to bring to the table.
"Not only that off the field as well you can tell they're a pretty tight bunch of blokes which is good and I'm sure whatever gets thrown at us they'll handle it well."
Cordner said while it was good to click with his old Roosters teammates there had still been plenty of work to do getting the new structures in place.
"It's still a little bit of hard work. Jenko as well, we're at different clubs and learning different systems [but] it does definitely help to have that combination with them," Cordner said.
"We played in 2013 to 2015 with [each other] and it definitely does help. I'm very close to Jimmy and Jenko so I can't wait to play with them."
In what will be his first run-on start for NSW in a match where he will almost certainly be expected to play 80 minutes given the three props and utility on the bench, it will fall to Cordner to marshal that edge in defence – especially given Maloney is likely to be targeted as halves always are, particularly in Origin.
However despite Maloney's 74 per cent effective tackle rate in the NRL this year – the lowest of the four halves on display on Wednesday – Cordner was confident he could do the job, though was prepared to help out where needed.
"He's proven himself throughout his whole career. There's been some talk about that but the time I've played with Jimmy he's never let me down and I'm very confident he's there beside me," Cordner said.
"I guess he should be getting ready to make a lot of tackles but whatever they throw at us I'm sure we'll be prepared and I'm sure we'll do our best.
"I'll do my best if they're running at him but I'll be doing my best to help him, no doubt about that."
Originally published as Old friendships helping new-look Blues gel