NEWCASTLE are set to provide multiple Origin representatives for the first time in four years when the annual interstate series kicks off next month.
Not since 2015, when Dane Gagai played for Queensland and Beau Scott for NSW, have the Knights provided more than one Origin player at any given time.
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This season they have two players who appear certainties, and three others who can push their claims with standout showings in Newcastle's next two games, against St George Illawarra in Mudgee on Sunday, and against defending premiers the Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday week.
NSW will name their team on Sunday week, and Queensland the following day, for the series opener at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.
Kalyn Ponga, after his memorable Origin debut in game two last season, is at unbackable odds to replace retired champion Billy Slater as Queensland fullback.
David Klemmer, a young veteran of 12 Origins, is likely to be the first prop picked by the Blues.
Powerful Knights centre Jesse Ramien is considered a bolter for the Blues. Ramien, 22, has scored only one try in eight games since joining Newcastle from Cronulla, but his statistics for tackle busts and post-contact metres suggest he would be ideally suited to Origin.
With NSW's incumbent right-side centre, James Roberts, languishing in Brisbane's reserve grade and other candidates including Jack Bird, Joey Leilua and Tom Trbojevic injured, Ramien is in the mix along with the likes of Mitch Aubusson, Josh Morris and Jack Wighton.
Rugged lock Tim Glasby, who joined Newcastle this season after featuring in three successive grand finals with Melbourne, is a Queensland incumbent, having played in their 18-12 win in game three last season.
Glasby is undefeated in three games at Origin level, and did his cause no harm with arguably his best game of the season in last week's 22-10 victory against Canterbury.
Newcastle skipper Mitchell Pearce, an 18-game NSW representative, has hit form at the right time with three consecutive man-of-the-match displays, but Adam Reynolds, Luke Keary and Cody Walker would appear ahead of him in the battle to oust incumbents Nathan Cleary and James Maloney.
Pearce wrote in his weekly Newcastle Herald column that he does not expect to be picked, and urged NSW selectors not to "burn" 21-year-old Cleary after last year's series triumph.
"If I'm picking the side, I'd have Cleary and Luke Keary in the halves," Pearce said.
Knights coach Nathan Brown said the benefits of providing players for representative duties far outweighed the challenge of having to field a depleted line-up.
"Hopefully if we're playing well enough, we'll lose some players to Origin," Brown said. "We all need those type of players to do well, and then that presents a different pressure again."
Brown's attitude is that "to be a good team, you need representative players".
Since Brown arrived at Newcastle in 2016, Gagai and Ponga are the only two Knights to have played Origin.
Newcastle's club-record contribution at Origin level was in 2002 and 2003, when three times they fielded six players in a game.