Paul McGregor has predicted that Tariq Sims will take to State of Origin football in the same manner he has dominated rival forwards for St George Illawarra this season.
Sims will finally make his Origin debut for NSW as Queensland attempt to avoid being clean swept for the first time since 2000 in game three in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
The 28-year-old had been named as 18th man for the first two games of the series but will get his chance from the bench at Suncorp Stadium after Blues coach Brad Fittler decided to leave out game two debutant Matt Prior.
Sims’ Dragons teammate Paul Vaughan has been included in the run on side, with the Blues’ forward pack displaying a distinct St George Illawarra flavour with Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin making up the back row.
And St George Illawarra coach McGregor said Sims had earned his Origin start after being consistently among the Dragons’ best so far this season.
“I’m happy for Taz. Again he’s earned that jumper through his performance throughout the year,” McGregor said.
“I think he’s getting better as the year goes on. He’s certainly come back from the Origin week to week during this period with the right attitude. And he’s been one of our best, if not the best, consistently week to week.
“He’s had his set backs along the way as well and some people would have turned away from the game but he turned towards it and fell forward. He’s doing a magnificent job for us and I’m sure he’ll do that same role in whatever opportunity he gets against Queensland.”
Sims has also benefited from the departure of Joel Thompson to Manly before the start of the season, allowing the hulking forward to play a different role for the Dragons.
“I think he wanted the role before Joel left. He actually came to me when Joel left and said I really want that opportunity and I said well, let’s go about earning it,” McGregor said.
“And he’s certainly done that through his pre-season, I thought he had a magnificent pre-season. He’s a big body and the work he does around having that big body gets to what you see on the weekend.
“His trial form wasn’t the best but as soon as it came around to round one he has been the most consistent forward within our club. To get the reward is a good story as well.”
McGregor also said Queensland had defied their own “pick and stick” policy in axing Dragons halfback Ben Hunt to the bench for Origin III.
The Dragons No.7 had led St George Illawarra to the top of the NRL table after 16 rounds but paid the price for an unhappy showing in Origin II with Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans given a chance to end his own Origin exile.