SYDNEY (AAP): Brett Kimmorley has been dropped from the NSW team to play Queensland in the second State of Origin rugby league match in Sydney on Wednesday week.
The Cronulla halfback has paid the price for a poor performance in the Blues' golden point loss to Queensland in game one and a couple of unhappy club games since for the Sharks.
Bulldogs pivot Braith Anasta has been drafted in at five-eighth, with Trent Barrett moving to halfback for NSW's must-win clash at Sydney's Telstra Stadium.
In the only other change, veteran back-rower Steve Menzies replaces Manly teammate Anthony Watmough on the interchange bench.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart said Kimmorley was down in confidence and the new halves combination of Anasta and Barrett provided a better mix", especially in respect to the kicking game.
"It was a very difficult decision," said Stuart.
"Over the past few weeks Brett hasn't been in the form that he would be happy with either.
"He's not playing at the level of football he would expect to be at.
"If you like at Trent Barrett and Braith Anasta, I think it's a good mix where Trent's done a good job for NSW before in the previous Origin games.
"We're very comfortable in that decision."
Stuart said the merits of including Andrew Johns in the 17-man squad was discussed at length this morning but it was felt the Newcastle skipper needed more game time to reach his peak.
Johns played solidly in his comeback match from a broken jaw in yesterday's 34-16 loss to Brisbane after seven weeks on the sideline but it would be a huge gamble to name the former NSW and Test captain for Origin II.
"I thought he played very well in a strong game," said Stuart.
"He couldn't have got a better test and I thought he came out of it well.
"His fitness is good but it's a matter of getting his full match fitness back by playing football.
"We had to look at that. We measured his game yesterday but he lacks that three or four games of football to get him back to peak condition."
Manly forward Menzies, 31, makes his return to Origin football after a three-year absence.
Stuart said it enabled him to take advantage of Craig Wing's speed around the ruck area and use Menzies to cover for any injuries to the outside backs.
"He's an amazing player, enduring what he has over his career," Stuart said of Menzies, who has played 15 games for the Blues.
The Sydney Roosters coach noted that after 278 first grade matches for Manly, it was an "amazing compliment" for Menzies to be named in the NSW 17-man squad, which will go into camp tomorrow morning.