Burns gets another opportunity to fire
TRAVIS Burns is expected to start at halfback when the Panthers clash with the Storm on Saturday night, giving the former Texas Terrier yet another chance to stake a claim for the Queensland State of Origin bench.
Burns is likely to move from hooker to halfback to replace Luke Walsh, who has been named but is in grave doubt with a knee injury.
And if that is the case, Burns will go head-to-head with Cooper Cronk who is a shoo-in for the Queensland halfback jersey.
The elevation of Cronk to the Maroons' starting side leaves a vacancy on the Queensland bench for Origin, and the versatility of Burns has the selectors interested.
"He is in the picture for sure," Queensland selector Alan Smith confided when asked on Monday whether the much-travelled 28-year-old was being considered.
Burns was one of the few Penrith players to impress in their fourth successive loss, 34-14 to Newcastle, on Monday night.
His switch to halfback for Saturday night would mean the 120-game NRL veteran will have played three different key positions in the past four NRL outings - halfback, five-eighth and hooker.
While Maroons coach Mal Meninga is reluctant to have a specialist halfback on the bench, Manly's impressive Daly Cherry Evans is still favoured to win his first Origin jersey.
But another authoritative performance from Burns on the weekend could bring him right into the frame as a genuine Origin 1 contender.
The news was not all bad for the Panthers. Captain Luke Lewis and centre Michael Jennings, also injured against Newcastle, have been named to play against the Storm and are expected to play.
Conversely, the Knights are in disarray with their skipper Kurt Gidley requiring a shoulder reconstruction, ruling him out for the season.
Danny Buderus has been named, but is in extreme doubt with an Achilles injury.
The Titans have suffered a major loss, with skipper Scott Prince ruled out indefinitely with a bicep tear.
In a reshuffled line-up, Aiden Sezer moves to half, William Zillman to five-eighth and Phill Graham makes his Titans debut at fullback.
Raiders coach David Furner has decided against making changes despite a thumping at the hands of the Sharks.
His only change for their trip to Brookvale Oval to meet the premiers is Travis Waddell for hooker Glenn Buttriss, while the Sea Eagles will again be without boom five-eighth Kieran Foran.
Chris Sandow has been named on the Eels bench for their Friday night clash with the Bulldogs, with Casey McGuire retaining the No.7 jersey.
The Eels have lost exciting young centre Cheyse Blair with a hamstring tear.