The NSW halfback selection puzzle got a little more complicated on Friday night with Country Origin No.7 Brett Finch putting his hand up with a commanding display in his side's 12-10 win over City Origin at Apex Oval in Dubbo.
While all eyes were on City trio Craig Gower, Matt Orford and Braith Anasta, it was Finch who took the opportunity to show selectors what he had to offer with his controlled kicking and passing game steering Country to a popular win in front of 11,423 fans.
Gower and Orford were let down by some ill-disciplined football by the City side in the first half, though they almost stole the contest when they battled back from an 8-0 deficit at the break to take the lead with 20 minutes to go.
But it was Newcastle winger Anthony Quinn who was the hero, showing great strength to touch down just inside the corner flag with five minutes remaining to get Country home.
While the City forwards struggled, Finch played behind a powerful pack, led by local hero Andrew Ryan and Manly prop Brent Kite, who did his NSW selection chances no harm.
Any suggestions the match was more spectacle than genuine contest were quickly dispelled with several crunching hits in defence early, Country even accepting an early opportunity at a penalty goal.
Finch and Kurt Gidley kept the pressure on with deft kicks securing repeat sets, before the Sydney Roosters No.7 set up the opening try for Anthony Laffranchi after 24 minutes.
Neither side threatened again before the break, but whatever City coach Tim Sheens said to his side at the break had the desired effect.
With Craig Wing now operating at dummy half in place of Robbie Farah, the City side looked a lot more organised, though there was more than a touch of luck in their first try.
Fullback Brett Hodgson climbed high to take an Orford bomb, tapping it over his head to Paul Gallen, who found unmarked Cronulla teammate David Simmons out wide.
Country looked like it had kicked away again when Finch put Preston Campbell into a hole, only for the play to be called back for a marginal forward pass, and the call became even more costly when Luke Rooney pounced on a brilliant Gallen pass to put City in front for the first time at 10-8 after 61 minutes.
Country again threatened to hit back, with both Chris Hicks and Adam McDougall held up over the line during a sustained period of attack, but they were unable to get the points they desperately required until Quinn's late heroics.