Cody Walker is a step closer to a Blues recall after he was one of five players announced as additions to the NSW squad for next month's State of Origin series.
Walker and Rabbitohs teammates Damien Cook and Cameron Murray, along with Canberra duo Jack Wighton and Nick Cotric, were selected on Sunday after their teams were eliminated from the NRL’s finals series over the weekend.
The South Sydney five-eighth was dropped after his debut in Origin I last year but Blues coach Brad Fittler recently indicated he was a fair chance of leapfrogging Roosters pivot Luke Keary in the race to replace James Maloney in the NSW No.6 jersey.
"Cody Walker - he's been awesome, absolutely awesome," Fittler said.
"Gave the Rabbits every chance against Penrith last night and nearly got away with it in the end."
Moments that matter - Brad Fittler
Fittler has now filled 20 spots in his 27-man squad, leaving seven places for players from Melbourne and Penrith, who will face off in next Sunday's grand final.
There was no room for Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham, who was being touted for a debut but didn't play against the Panthers due to a groin injury.
Penrith's Nathan Cleary, Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo, James Tamou and Moses Leota appear firmly in contention for selection, so too Storm stars Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane and Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Fittler could also add players he initially overlooked.
Canberra's Cotric debuted in the 2019 series-opener but suffered an ankle injury and didn't play a further role.
"The Raiders scored two tries [against the Storm on Friday] and Nick scored them both," Fittler said.
"He's a great finisher and I look forward to seeing him."
Murray, Cook and Wighton are Blues incumbents having helped the state retain the shield last year.
"[Wighton's] had an incredible season," Fittler said.
"He can play in a few positions, he's been great for us in the past and I thought he was Canberra's best for the whole season."
The coach spoke of Murray's versatility and said the forward was "brilliant" in his debut series in 2019.
He said he'd talked to Cook after Saturday's match and thought the dynamic hooker had a knee injury but "it didn't seem that way".
The NSW extended squad will gather on Monday to enter their four-and-a-half week biosecurity bubble for the State of Origin series, which begins on November 4 and will be played in consecutive weeks.
NSW Blues extended squad (in alphabetical order)
- Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels)
- Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Parramatta Eels)
- Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs
- Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters)
- Nick Cotric (Canberra Raiders)
- Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)
- Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Clint Gutherson (Parramatta Eels)
- Payne Haas (Brisbane Broncos)
- Luke Keary (Sydney Roosters)
- Zac Lomax (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons)
- Cameron Murray (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Junior Paulo (Parramatta Eels)
- Daniel Saifiti (Newcastle Knights)
- James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters)
- Jake Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
- Daniel Tupou (Sydney Roosters)
- Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
- Jack Wighton (Canberra Raiders)