Are the NSW Blues in for a fighting chance this year?
NOT surprisingly, the first piece of rugby league news to break in 2014 was allied to State of Origin. And also not unexpectedly, the news item concerned advice on how New South Wales can break its eight-series losing streak.
Former Blues halfback Steve Mortimer, the first NSW skipper to lead his state to a series win, has publically appealed to Jamie Lyon to make himself available for Origin selection.
Despite having been named Dally M centre of the year for three of the past four seasons, 31-year-old Lyon continues to ignore the lure of rep football.
He played the last of his 10 matches for the Blues in 2010 and - amazingly - NSW has since used eight different centre pairings.
Mortimer, who emotionally sunk to his knees and kissed the Lang Park turf when the fulltime hooter sounded in 1984 to signal the first series win by NSW, was recently recruited to help mentor the next generation of Blues. But his first public comment was aimed at the current crop of players, not those of the future.
"Jamie Lyon is the first player I would pick for NSW. Laurie Daley and the NSWRL should meet with him face-to-face and ask him to play for the Blues again," Mortimer announced.
But therein lies the problem. The Blues need to get on bended knee to secure a player of undoubted class, while Queensland has players prepared to bodgie their qualifications just to grab an opportunity to wear the maroon.
No more passionate man has played for NSW than Steve Mortimer. He epitomises much of what has seemingly been missing from the Blues while Queensland has marched to an unprecedented eight successive series wins.
And while Jamie Lyon may not share that passion, at least he has been upfront about his intentions. Others, like brothers Brett and Glenn Stewart, seemingly hid behind injury claims this past series to mask their lack of enthusiasm for the Origin arena.
And the boofhead element, headed by Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan, expose their lack of appetite for the game and the jersey by the kind of behaviour that will almost certainly rule Ferguson ineligible to play anywhere in 2014.
Admittedly Queensland has been supremely dominant in its eight-series streak since 2006. The Maroons have won 17 of the 24 games played and have scored 455 points to 347. But all except one of the eight series has been a 2-1 result.
And what the Blues have lacked in those tight contests is a player like Jamie Lyon - a cool, calm and supremely-talented player who could make the difference. But unless Lyon has the hunger to be there, Mortimer is wasting his erstwhile passion pleading with him to return.