Ferguson, Mitchell to take centre stage
Chief Queensland Correspondent at NRL.com, Tony Webeck, recently spoke with former Cowboy Josh Hannay about how the game was at risk of losing all genuine strike centres.
"The way the game is currently played, a winger has more of an influence and impact on a game than a centre. A centre in the game today almost seems like a dying art, a lost art," Hannay said back in January.
"The days where you would set up to play to your strike centre are just about gone."
While that might be true north of the border, there are no such shortages in New South Wales with close to a dozen centres in contention for this year's State of Origin series, including two in-form Roosters who are capable of causing havoc from anywhere on the field.
One of those is incumbent Blues winger Blake Ferguson, whose form on the flank for the Kangaroos in last year's Four Nations tournament in the UK was simply unreal.
With four tries from as many appearances, the 26-year-old more than justified his selection in Mal Meninga's side and his Roosters teammates are hoping Ferguson brings his Kangaroos form back to club level when the Telstra Premiership kicks off later this week.
Ferguson spent 2016 in the centres, at fullback and on the wing, but is set to start the new year playing inside Shaun Kenny-Dowall on the right edge.
"He really came into his own in the Four Nations and hopefully he can replicate those performances for us. I'm really excited to play on the outside of Blake," Kenny-Dowall said on Monday morning.
"He's got two kids now and he's grown up a lot. He takes training very seriously and the way that he's been preparing for the season has been unbelievable so we're all excited to see what heights he can go to this year."
The Kiwis representative was equally excited to see how young gun Latrell Mitchell would fare in his switch to the centres.
"He hasn't had much game time there," Kenny-Dowall said.
"Had a great pre-season in the centres so I think it's going to be a week-to-week proposition. He'll do the best he can and we're excited to have him in the centres."
Coming off a breakout debut season that saw him play in all 24 Roosters matches in 2016, the 19-year-old Mitchell is set to get first crack at left centre with veteran Michael Gordon tipped to play fullback in Round 1 for the Tricolours.
Mitchell has the size and speed to trouble even the best defensive outside backs, but it remains to be seen how he will handle the transition into the three-quarter line.
Left winger Daniel Tupou won a premiership playing outside Michael Jennings and backed Mitchell to develop into one of the game's most destructive centres over the next few years.
"He'll be up there. He's still developing as a player so I reckon he's only going to get better," Tupou said.
"He's really developed as a player. We've got good combos going through training so I can't wait to see how that goes on Saturday.
"He's one talented player so I'm just happy to be playing outside a superstar like him."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM