Sonny Bill Williams may have helped play James Maloney into a Sydney Roosters-dominated NSW backline as the premiers crushed a luckless Wests Tigers 30-6 at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
Showing no ill effects from a bout of tonsilitis that saw him lose six kilograms last week, Williams turned in one of his best performances of the season as he caused havoc for Tigers defenders and created try-scoring opportunities on both sides of the field with his trademark offloads.
The main beneficiaries of Williams' wrecking-ball efforts were Maloney and fellow Blues hopefuls Michael Jennings and Daniel Tupou, who finished with two tries each in a mistake-ridden but entertaining match watched by a crowd of 16,024.
With neither Josh Reynolds or Jarrod Mullen making a decisive claim for the NSW No.6 jersey when they went head to head in last weekend's City-Country match, Maloney is now believed to be favoured to retain the five-eighth position he filled in last year's State of Origin series and his performance against the Tigers will only have helped his cause.
If selected when the Blues team for Origin I is announced on Tuesday week, Maloney could line up alongside Jennings and Tupou on a NSW left edge, with halfback Mitchell Pearce almost certain to be his scrumbase partner.
While Jarryd Hayne was named at right centre for Australia before being ruled out with injury in last Friday night's Test against New Zealand, Jennings is proven big-game player and the Parramatta superstar is likely to be chosen in his regular fullback position.
After starring for City in last Sunday's 26-26 draw with Country in Dubbo, Tupou is being seriously considered to make his Origin debut on the left wing and his partnership with Jennings could help him seal the spot ahead of Manly's Jorge Taufua and the Tigers Pat Richards, whose kick-offs troubled the Roosters after each of their six tries.
However, Maloney also has the advantage of being a goalkicker and he was involved in three of the Roosters tries as well as having one disallowed when he lost the ball over the line in what appeared to be a high tackle by impressive Tigers fullback rookie Curtis Rowe.
But Williams was the most influental player on the field and made 152 metres from his 17 runs with the ball, which featured four offloads, a line-break, a line-break assistant and a tackle break, while he also making 24 tackles.
Refreshed from a holiday in Bali, the New Zealand dual international showed his intent from the outset but it took until the 10th minute for his persistence to pay dividends when Tupou scored his first try after Williams managed to offload while attracting three defenders and hooker Jake Friend threw a long pass to the towering winger.
Williams almost scored himself six minutes later after sending Roger Tuivasa-Sheck racing down the touchline and backing up but the pass back inside to him was too difficult to handle.
He continued to hit, spin and offload to right centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Tuivasa-Sheck but then went roaming infield to set up the Roosters second try for Jennings in the 35th minute after Williams put Maloney into the clear and he drew Rowe to send the Australian World Cup squad member racing away to score.
Tupou's second try in the 39th minute off a Maloney cut-out pass gave the home side a 16-0 lead at halftime and despite the Tigers always looking likely to do something the game was as good as over in the 45th minute when Jennings swooped on to a loose pass from Wests interchange forward Sitaleki Akauola and sprinted 40 metres to score.
The night was probably best summed up for the Tigers just two minutes earlier when boom halfback Luke Brooks threw a pass near the Roosters line that was intercepted by Tuivasa-Sheck and then chased the Roosters speedster down on halfway.
Another Maloney cut out pass to Tupou resulted in Boyd Cordner scoring in the 60th minute and Peace completed the rout in the 72nd minute.