Door opens for Aitken to be part of NSW State of Origin future

Off and gone: Euan Aitken scores against Greg Inglis last year. Picture: Nine
Off and gone: Euan Aitken scores against Greg Inglis last year. Picture: Nine

Euan Aitken made his name as a potential State of Origin player when he embarrassed Greg Inglis last year.

Announcing his retirement Monday, Inglis has rarely, if ever, looked silly on the field. Here he was, being stood up and left clutching, mostly at air.

The now 23-year-old Dragons centre offers only a wry smile discussing the moment, declaring it will be his defence, not his blistering ball-running ability, which will put him on course for a breakthrough NSW jumper.

And the door has swung open for Aitken, as Brisbane and incumbent NSW centre James Roberts battles an Achilles tendon injury after previous struggling with back problems.

"It would be a dream to play Origin," he said.

"I've just got to keep developing my skills, you've got to be putting stamps on games and get noticed.

"But you've also got to be doing the little things like quick play the balls."

Aitken was already in consideration last year having caught the eye of Laurie Daley and selectors.

Unfortunately he was ultimately given a miss in favour of Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell who had better statistics in being able to feed the ball to his outside man.

However, Aitken says he is prime for the opportunity in 2019.

"My attacking game will look after itself when I get the opportunity, but I'm just making sure my defence is good and making the right reads, which will prepare you for Origin."

Aitken said the man stepped around to score a famous try in the 16-12 win over the Bunnies just 12 months ago was "unstoppable at his peak" in tribute.

Inglis has been battling arthritis in a shoulder and persistent knee injuries and has been open about his mental health battle in recent years.

He featured in the Rabbitohs' opening two wins against the Roosters and Dragons, but was sent away by coach Wayne Bennett last week to mull his future after missing the club's last three matches.

Inglis finishes with 263 NRL games for the Storm and Rabbitohs as well as 39 for Australia.

He made 32 appearances for Queensland in the State of Origin arena, captaining the side for the first time last year after Cameron Smith's representative retirement.

Footballers generally tell you it's too early to think about Origin, but the reality is Aitken has six more games to prove his time has come, before the team for game one is chosen. But at the same time, he's developing a new combination with Ben Hunt and ex-rugby union player Mikaela Ravalawa on the right edge, as Tyson Frizell is shifted between second and front row.

"We're still finding out what works for us," he said.

"... I'm at the stage of my career where I'm not new to the side, I'm in my fifth season, I can help blokes and build the combination."

Fellow Far South Coaster Dale Finucane will also be a serious contender at lock for the Blues this year.