Gold Coast hooker Nathan Peats, dumped by Blues selectors despite performing well in his three games for NSW last year, has emotionally sprung to the defence of Jarrod Wallace over his efforts in the first two games of this series.
Peats claimed the criticism directed at Wallace is a result of the Maroons' game plan in Origin II in which the ball passed him by, or he passed to outside men, as the Queenslanders tried to shock the Blues with continual shifts of the ball in the first quarter of the match.
Peats has tipped Wallace to strike back strongly for the Titans against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday and says NSW squad member Ryan James will respond positively to being overlooked by Blues coach Brad Fittler for a place in his final 17.
Wests Tigers v Titans - Round 16
Wallace played only the first 28 minutes in Sydney before being replaced by Kalyn Ponga. He was not recalled to the action by coach Kevin Walters in the second half.
"I don't think the game plan suited 'Jay-Wal' the other night; they shifted and targeted them [NSW] down edges and he was playing his 'one shape' at the back,” Peats said.
"Everyone knows how hard a worker he is. I think the media has been harsh on him.
"People say why isn't he getting metres like he does in the NRL? Origin is a completely different game.
"For him to go off stats and have 40 metres or whatever, yeah he'd like to have more than that but he played a 25-minute stint at the start of the game and didn't get back on.
"I don't know what more you want him to do. He worked hard in 'D' [defence] and did everything he could. I think [the media] should back off and leave him alone.
"That's game plans in Origin. Everyone bagged me for my games last year but I stuck to the game plans of Laurie Daley and it's the same with him [Wallace].
"If you get given a game plan you don't stuff around with it; you don’t stuff up in Origin and don’t say 'I'm not going to do the shapes'. You stick to what the coach's plan is and put trust in the coach."
Peats is one of several teammates who have backed James to continue his great club form and become a long-term NSW player.
"Ryan has busted his arse this year and his past two games have been his best games, both man of the match performances," he said.
"He can hold his head high. He's that close and he just keeps chipping away at it. He's a pretty cool fella and doesn't get too stressed out.
"If it means he doesn't get his time until next year, so be it.
"His name has been in the media for a couple years about making it and I was the same at Parramatta and you kind of get sick of hearing it. But when it does come you're stoked."
Titans centre Dale Copley, who signed a two-year deal to stay with the club on Thursday, predicted James would be rewarded for his patience.
"The fact that he’s closer than he was last year is good; his time will come," Copley said.
"He's playing the best since I've been here and he's getting better too. He's relatively young and he's got a good time left in the game. I think he’ll play a lot of Origin."