Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett stopped short of pushing his own star halves for Blues jerseys but he is adamant selectors simply cannot pick incumbent playmakers James Maloney and Nathan Cleary for Game I.
In the wake of another classy and composed display by Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds in the Bunnies' 16-12 win over Canberra, Bennett insists their form will do the talking for them when it comes to Origin.
However, Bennett said Maloney and Cleary "aren’t worth the risk" given the Panthers' club form which sees them anchored to the bottom of the Telstra Premiership ladder.
"In all fairness to everybody, and I'll say what nobody else wants to say, they cannot pick the halfback and five-eighth from last year," Bennett said.
"What they do after that I don't know but there are key players in their club and the club's not playing well.
"There's too many quality players in this competition that happen to wear New South Wales jerseys for those guys to be picked."
In contrast to Cleary and Maloney's Panthers, the Rabbitohs are sitting pretty on top of the table after hanging tough to win a high intensity clash at GIO Stadium.
Bennett: They can't pick Cleary and Maloney
Bennett said he had seen enough Origin football to know what it will take for the Blues to go back-to-back, with form and confidence crucial in the key positions of the halves.
"I coached Origin, I coached seven series of it, so I know how it works and I know this much, you've got Cody playing so well, Reynolds playing great, a couple of other players at other clubs playing some great football," he said.
"Last year's pair were in great form last year, but they're nowhere near that, they're way off it.
"The positions they play if you think they can go into an Origin game in that type of form and be stars, it's not going to happen."
The Rabbitohs' ninth win of the season did not come easily, with a string of first-half penalties testing the patience of the referees and ensuring a stop-start contest.
Skipper Sam Burgess conceded four penalties in a row and was involved in several heated debates with referee Ben Cummins.
"Sam was losing his way and that was probably the worst period of the game for us," Bennett said.
"But we held up and defended it and got to half-time and got it sorted it, we had a friendly talk."
Bennett paid tribute to the Raiders saying they gave his side one of their toughest contests of the season and expected the Green Machine to be in the hunt come September.
"We didn't get many chances because of the quality they were playing with, they just about completed everything in the first half and one or two max in the second half," he said.
"They put us under a lot of pressure and we were coming off our own tryline most of the night."
Souths suffered an injury blow before the game with scans showing Kyle Turner had broken a toe at training. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
"At training yesterday Kyle was doing a couple drills with a couple of players and he got stood on and we couldn't get him X-rayed last night. Today we could, and it turned out to be a broken toe," Bennett said.
Cook and Walker combine