True Blue Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach believes Parramatta Eels front-row wrecking balls Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo are the in-form props of the competition and have forced their way into Origin contention after their blistering start to the revamped NRL season.
Campbell-Gillard has made a strong case as one of the best signings of the 2020 campaign, playing himself into career-best form and arguably the best since he earned a State of Origin debut in the 2018 series.
Meanwhile, Paulo has been a revelation for the ladder-leaders this season, averaging 161m per game while producing 28 offloads thanks to his crafty ball-playing ability.
Roach believes the pair have earned the right to be in Origin conversations and will be an integral part of the club’s search for their first premiership since 1986.
“100% (he deserves to be in Origin conversations). If you’re looking at form, he (Campbell-Gillard) and his front-row partner Junior Paulo are the two best (props) at the moment that could play for NSW,” Roach said on Behind Blue Eyes.
“I know (Daniel) Saifiti and (David) Klemmer and those sorts of guys are good players but if you look purely on form, these guys have to be somewhere around (the conversation).
“They’re leading the competition not by a fluke. They’re leading the competition because these guys are leading the way.”
Campbell-Gillard has re-ignited his career under coach Brad Arthur after he struggled for confidence when he returned from two broken cheekbones in 2018 at the Panthers.
Roach believes the fearless front-rower has well and truly returned to career-best form, and says his resurgence is a testament to the guidance of Arthur and perseverance of the one-time NSW forward.
“For Campbell-Gillard, it’s great to see him back because I felt for him when he broke his jaw twice and everyone said he’s not like he used to be,” he said.
“It’s hard to come back from those things, (particularly) facial injuries when you play in that position, of course you’re always going to be worried.
“I think Brad Arthur, in my opinion, what he’s done…he’s simplified Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s game.
“He hasn’t given him too much to think about, (he can) just go out there and run hard and go as hard as you can for as long as you can.
“No one in the game plays as hard as he does.”
The Eels head into Round 10 sitting first on the competition ladder, recording just one loss all season against the Roosters, and will look to record their fourth consecutive victory against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on Sunday.