Blues see Red as Dragons' Origin contenders thrive

Last month, it might have been four. Last week, some speculated it was five. This week, it could be six. Next week, throw seven of them in there, they're playing that damn good.

So just how many Red V monsters does Cameron Smith expect to be trying to steamroll him in blue in a few weeks time?

Barnstormer: Jack de Belin smashes Will Chambers at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.

"I've got no idea," Smith shrugged, with all the enthusiasm of a man whose defending premiers had just been thumped 34-14 by the Dragons at Jubilee Oval.

So, let's help him out.

Tyson Frizell is a certainty, probably Jack de Belin too. Cameron McInnes must have scored a points win over his Queensland rival and is firming to be Brad Fittler's NSW No.9. Then there's Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan and two-try hero Euan Aitken, all three easily in or out at the MCG.

Throw in Ben Hunt in Queensland maroon.

"The Dragons are the benchmark team, so teams that are playing really good footy usually have some representation in Origin and the Origin sides, whether it's NSW or Queensland," Smith elaborated. "You'd probably expect a couple of those players in there."

A couple? He can only hope.

But Fittler's gain might be Paul McGregor's pain. He knows it's coming, not that it's going to be any easier to accept when it eventually arrives.

Asked whether he was cringing at the thought of Fittler reading out his game one line-up in three weeks time, McGregor said: "Me and Gaz [Gareth Widdop] do, yeah.

"Every team goes through it, and teams that are successful hurt a little bit more from it. It's part of the game and you've just got to manage it. The biggest thing for myself is about the welfare of the player around the Origin period.

"It's important to get wins now and, if we do lose players or can afford to lose players, we can rest and freshen them up. It's sort of the unknown at the moment. Anything can happen in three weeks. We've got to ride this."

And so will Aitken. On another day, he might have stood opposite NSW hopeful and Storm gun Curtis Scott all afternoon. Scott was a late scratching with injury.

Aitken instead tormented Papua New Guinea's NRL debutant Justin Olam, scoring the first and last of the Dragons' four tries.

"I'm happy with my performance, and I'm hoping that's good for me in the long run," Aitken said.

"I'm just trying to take each game as it comes, put my best foot forward and do the right thing for the Dragons coming away with wins, and that's only going to put me in a good spot [for Origin selection]."

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