TONY Williams' hopes of playing for NSW in the State of Origin decider are literally picking up pace while Glenn Stewart's ground to a shuddering halt yesterday.
Williams, out since Origin I with a back injury, has begun running and Manly officials expect him to stride out next week, giving NSW coach Ricky Stuart food for thought as he searches for someone to replace Stewart.
Stewart tore a medial ligament in his side's loss to Melbourne on Monday night and scans yesterday confirmed he would be sidelined for at least three weeks.
That would make him unavailable for Origin III at Suncorp Stadium, which will be played in less than two weeks.
Williams looms as one option, although his availability will hinge on the speed of his recovery from his back problem. It is understood he is running at 75 per cent but could hit full pace as early as next week.
Other options for Stuart include Melbourne pair Ryan Hoffman and Ryan Hinchcliffe and Manly's Jamie Buhrer.
Queensland has dramas of its own as it weighs up what to do at fullback -- Billy Slater is unlikely to be available as he struggles with a knee injury -- and whether to retain Dave Taylor or give Sam Kasiano an Origin debut.
The potential selection of Kasiano, who was born in New Zealand and pledged his allegiance to the Kiwis this year, continues to divide opinion.
ARL Commission chairman John Grant weighed into the debate yesterday, suggesting the sport had to ensure international football dictated what players were available for Origin.
The issue will be discussed at next month's meeting of the Rugby League International Federation, where New Zealand is expected to push for revised rules which bind players when they represent the Junior Kangaroos or Kiwis. Kasiano represented neither.
Of more concern is the need to make Test football more attractive to the players by increasing pay.
"We're a democracy and at the end of the day the people determine things and in this case the people are the players," Grant said.
"So you have to be very cognisant of the players' right to make the decisions that they're able to make and the rules to define the decisions they're able to make."
Asked whether he was concerned an increase in Origin payments could result in more players switching allegiances, Grant said: "It goes back to my Australia, New Zealand comment -- let's make it more enticing for them to play for Australia or New Zealand."