Versatility puts Gutho in Origin frame
IN the space of just two weeks, Clint Gutherson has come back from a devastating knee injury and been appointed co-captain of Parramatta.
Now the Eels ace has emerged as a shock candidate for Brad Fittler's NSW State of Origin squad.
With 29 days remaining until the NSW side is selected for Origin I, The Sunday Telegraph has learned the versatile Gutherson has attracted serious attention from the Blues heirachy, who view him as a potential 'Mr Fix-It'.
Ahead of an important meeting between the NSW brains trust of Fittler, chief adviser Greg Alexander and assistant coach Danny Buderus this week, Gutherson has the chance to further impress against the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium this afternoon.
What has catapulted Gutherson into the Origin equation is his proven class and versatility in playing almost every position in the backline
Gutherson has played fullback, wing, centre and five-eighth during his 49 NRL matches.
His selection as Eels co-captain last week alongside Tim Mannah and Beau Scott for the remainder of the season is also an indication of the leadership qualities he could bring to the Blues.
But overwhelmingly, it has been Gutherson's confident and commanding return for the Eels, after being sidelined since last July with an ACL injury, which has caught the eye of the Blues decision-makers.
In his only two games for year, the 23-year-old - nicknamed 'King Gutho' by the Eels faithful - has scored a try, produced five tackle busts and averaged 118 running metres.
Gutherson's value in gaining yardage - so crucial in Origin - is underlined by the fact he's already just 3m shy of the club's best for average metres gained, with forward Nathan Brown (121m) leading the way.
Gutherson's elevation to Origin would be widely regarded as surprise, yet before his devastating knee injury last year, the Mona Vale junior boasted a rich formline of representative class.
His representiave jerseys include selection in the 2013 NSW under-20s, 2014 Junior Kangaroos and 2016 City Origin side - notably under Fittler.
It's on the Blues right-wing where NSW could look to inflict change, following Josh Mansour's facial injury and the representative retirement of Blues talisman Brett Morris.
The Sydney Roosters' Blake Ferguson, who has shown consistency in an otherwise struggling Tricolours side this season, is an obvious contender to retain his Blues right-wing jersey.
However, Manly's Tom Trbojevic, should he miss out on the NSW fullback spot, would have support to usurp Ferguson while Gutherson and boom Canberra winger Nick Cotric, provide serious depth to the selection debate.
Increasingly, it appears only injury or suspension over the next five weeks, can shatter the left-side selection and Melbourne combination of unflappable centre Curtis Scott and wing-flyer Josh Addo-Carr for NSW.
Scott suffered an ankle injury in Melbourne's win over New Zealand on ANZAC DAY, but should be back within two weeks.
Gutherson was unwilling to talk up his prospects of a NSW Origin debut when speaking to The Sunday Telegraph.
"It's every person who plays rugby league's dream to play State of Origin,'' Gutherson said.
"If it doesn't come this year, I'll push for it next year. There's no real rush. I'm still young. I would be ready to go if it does come.''