Matt Prior has been rewarded for three seasons of consistency with selection in the Blues’ extended squad for State of Origin II.
The two-time premiership-winning prop, who helped Cronulla to their historic maiden title in 2016, was one of three new faces alongside Luke Keary and Ryan James named in a 20-man squad by NSW coach Brad Fittler.
With Penrith prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard ruled out with a broken jaw, Titans forward James and Sharks big man Prior will have the chance to come into the Blues’ side for Sunday night’s clash against Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
Prior was told of his selection by Sharks CEO Barry Russell as he left the field after Cronulla’s 20-16 loss to Brisbane at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Saturday night, with Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan announcing the selection to the Sharks squad in the dressing room.
Cronulla were far from their best in the first half of their the four-point defeat to the Broncos which saw Brisbane join them on 18 competition points. The sides remain in seventh and eighth respectively with the NRL taking a break for the stand-alone representative weekend.
An unforgettable put-down by Corey Oates helped the Broncos hold off the Sharks in a pulsating contest that needed a moment of brilliance to find a winner.
The Broncos looked to be in control for much of the match before Cronulla hit back with a pair of second-half tries to level the score at 16-all with 15 minutes to play.
It looked as if the Sharks had all of the late momentum before Oates conjured a miracle on the left wing, somehow finding a way to get the ball over the line.
But Flanagan was unhappy that the final pass from Darius Boyd to Oates was not ruled back after it appeared to have been thrown almost five metres forward, though he refused to blame it for the defeat.
“Passes can travel forward. But that travelled forward five metres,” he said.
“Wow. That’s all I can say on that one.
“We measured where he passed it. He’s on the [10 metre] line, where he received it he’s five metres in front of him. That’s a long way.
“We had an opportunity there and just couldn’t come up with that play. [It’s] disappointing.
“We beat ourselves. 11 errors in the first half.
“We showed some fight in the second half and put ourselves in the game and gave ourselves a chance to win it but in the end we needed to be better in the first half.
“Six-nil in the first set, you can’t do it in close games. But it proves to me that we can beat teams like that and if we play anywhere near our best we should have won tonight.”
Prior is the Sharks’ only representative in the Blues’ squad.