One of the
laziest most important things one can do at this time of year is hypothesise over the makeup of the New South Wales and Queensland Origin squads. Opinions on this are like assholes, everyone’s got one and they all stink except for mine, which smells like the morning dew. I’ll attempt to remain as impartial as I can in the naming of these squads, but offer absolutely no guarantees.
New South Wales
Fullback: James Tedesco – If Teddy is fit, he plays. His defence in game 1 is a big reason why NSW were able to close QLD out, not just in terms of physically turning away trys, but the attitude he demonstrated and instilled in the squad. No surprise that the Blues looked shaky at the back when he left the field for a concussion test in game 2. If he doesn’t pull up in time, Jarryd Hayne should take his place.
Wing: Brett Morris – No issues with Brett’s game over the first two encounters, could do with getting his hands in the ball a bit more often, but that’s more an Hayne issue than a Morris issue.
Centre: Jarryd Hayne – Had his worst Origin game possibly ever in game 2 this year and I would back him to bounce back hard. The elder statesman of the New South Wales squad with enough size, swagger and speed to do his job. If he has to cover fullback, I like Jarrod Croker to take his place. He’s the Raiders top point scorer for a reason and would give us another goal kicking option.
Centre: Josh Dugan – Has been accused of being lazy, but his work bringing the ball back out of trouble in game 2 was outstanding.
Wing: Blake Ferguson – Strong runner with the size to combat a lot of opposition wingers. Relatively ineffective over the first 2 games but to be fair, we spent most of our time just going straight through the middle to great effect.
Five Eighth: James Maloney – Far from the most capped player in the team, but certainly one of the more experienced footballers in the squad. Has won two premierships at two different clubs and knows how to perform on the big stage. Dependable goal kicker and would have no issues if he took on more of the kicking duties during the game. Well established combination with his halves partner is the absolute cherry on top.
Halfback: Mitchell Pearce – Haters back off. An outstanding club player and the best option that New South Wales have at the moment. His kicking game has been called into question (again and again and again) but where he excels is on the run, where he’s scored a try in both games this series. Also, made more tackles than the QLD halves combined in game 2, and almost as many in game 1 where he only played 50 minutes. Would personally love nothing more than to see him hoist the shield.
Prop: Aaron Woods – Never 100% convinced with Woodsy but he’s dependable and stepped into the void in game 2 when Fafita was being pinpointed. My vote for captain if the worst happens and Cordner is unavailable, knows what is required.
Hooker: Nathan Peats – Took a commanding hold of the position in his game 1 debut this year and backed it up admirably three weeks later. Would like to see him run the ball a bit more, especially on the back of some of Dugan’s surges from our own end. Without question an 80 minute player, but could benefit from a rest to get Jack Bird more involved.
Prop: Andrew Fafita – Was targeted hard by QLD in game 2 and clearly impacted by it. Did allow Woods and Jackson some more freedom so not a total loss. Would like to see him focus on running hard, especially in the early stages, because he sometimes looked to be a little too focussed on the offload.
Second Row: Boyd Cordner – Has the potential to hold onto the NSW captaincy for the next decade. A consummate professional with some of the best line running in the competition and a strong link to both his halves, will be a huge loss to the Blues if he’s ruled out. Wade Graham to be promoted from the bench if he doesn’t make the grade.
Second Row: Josh Jackson – NSW man of the series last year and on track for a repeat performance this season. No frills, no nonsense , no worries.
Lock: Tyson Frizell – Exploded into the State of Origin frame last season and has never looked out of place. Also under an injury cloud and would be another big dint in the Blues defence if ruled out, but Trent Merrin has the experience and skills to fill in if required.
Bench: Jack Bird – Should be a walk on into the side, it’s really his versatility that doesn’t do him any favours as he’s just too valuable off the bench. Would love him to get more involved like he was required to do in game 1, could rotate through the 6, 7 and 9 without much issue and could bring the spark that NSW need to close things out.
Bench: David Klemmer – Definition of an impact prop, looks to be licking his lips as he paces the sidelines waiting to come on and may be one of those individuals that enjoys pain. Would be as at home in the starting side as he is in a Vinny Jones lookalike contest, but his energy coming on following the opening stint is valued.
Bench: Wade Graham – Cannot believe how long it took Graham to get a game for NSW, as with Bird, could consider himself unlucky not to be starting, but provides so much value across the park. If he’s needed in the starting side, get Trent Merrin in and cross your fingers we don’t have any more injuries.
Bench: Jake Trbojevic – Was a coin flip between Jake Turbo and Merrin over who would replace Frizell if required, in the end it was Merrin’s experience that won me over but I’m sure Trbojevic would step up. Uncannily calm and professional considering his age and experience.
Fullback: Billy Slater – Queensland bounced back from the biggest selection foible in State of Origin history to select Slater at the back for game 2. That’s where he belongs and that’s where he’ll stay.
Wing: Corey Oates – Without Oates, QLD are held scoreless in Origin 1. Without Oates’ huge leap on the end of Cronk’s near perfect kick, NSW diffuse the threat and QLD go begging. He was made pretty ineffective in game 1 after being peppered constantly by bombs from the NSW halves, but if QLD get a sniff of dominance, his long stride and hard running will come to the fore.
Centre: Will Chambers – Can consider himself a mainstay in the Origin team now, and has a few years of top level footy left in him at the very least. Although he’s been less effective over the first couple of games as QLD have faltered, he’s a solid worker and the combination with his Melbourne teammates can’t be ignored.
Centre: Dane Gagai – Gagai shifts into the centres to cover for the injured and perennially ordinary Darius Boyd. After his near one man show in game 2, I’m sure plenty of people will be loathe to move him from the edge, I suffer from none of those delusions however and I’m sure he’ll be as unfortunately effective wearing the 3 or 4.
Wing: Valentine Holmes – A true future superstar and one of the few players QLD have that could be considered a foundational player for years to come. Don’t expect him to shift from this position for a good while.
Five Eighth: Michael Morgan – Possibly the most contentious selection, but one that I feel is warranted. Morgan of course plays 5/8th at the Cowboys alongside Thurston, a man who oozes excellence, and he would’ve had to work pretty hard for some of that the not rub off on him. Most importantly, I think Morgan possesses the qualities and temperament to play backup to his halves partner. When you’re lining up alongside Cooper Cronk, that’s not a bad thing.
Halfback: Cooper Cronk – Seriously, what justification do you need.
Prop: Dylan Napa – As a Roosters fan I’ve got a massive wrap on this guy. The thought of that red hair steamrolling towards you is terrifying, he’s got a massive motor and zero fear, perfect for the opening kickoff.
Hooker: Cameron Smith – See Cronk. Public enemy number one for anyone who likes their football fast and flowing, and their referees unmolested.
Prop: Josh Papalii – I know Papalii is billed as an impact player, but I was surprised that he wasn’t promoted to starting prop for game 2. Without a solid start for Queensland, he could spend whatever minutes he would get off the bench playing catch up rather than establishing dominance. He’s versatile and could rotate around for his second stint, but I’d start him up front.
Second Row: Gavin Cooper – A hard working, 80 minute player who can repeat his role of Thurston’s bodyguard from game 2 by doing the same job for teammate Michael Morgan.
Second Row: Matt Gillett – Another automatic selection who needs no introduction, tears through a ton of work everytime he’s on the field.
Lock: Josh McGuire – Can play anywhere in the front row and topped the tackle count for QLD in the first two games. As the Maroons enter their transition period, with some of their stars retiring and stepping aside, I’d back McGuire to help bring in the new bloods.
Bench: Cameron Munster – A player of the future for QLD who could probably do with getting introduced sooner rather than later. In all honesty, I’m surprised he did retain the fullback spot for Melbourne when Billy Slater returned from injury, that’s how impressive he is. Can cover a few spots, but if he’s called on to fill in for Cronk, expect QLD to wobble with inexperience.
Bench: Sam Thaiday – Only a total muppet would drop Thaiday from the QLD side. Hi Kev. Although approaching the back end of his career, never takes a backwards step and has one of the fastest play the balls for a man his size. Any sting that’s come out of his performances at club level are due to him putting 110% of himself into these 3 games every year.
Bench: Jarrod Wallace – Wallace must be in the market for some new shoes, because he spent all his 22 minutes of game 2 on his heels. He’ll be better for getting his first run under his belt, and returns to Suncorp having spent 5 years there with the Broncos. Let the big boys do the heavy lifting in the first twenty minutes, then send him out for a run.
Bench: Coen Hess – The only thing I agree with Kevin Walters about is the need for youth in the Queensland team. Make the changes now while some of the old guard still remains to impart life skills, like how to do a chicken wing tackle and where to put your foot so it looks like it’s not touching the sideline. Hess was given an opportunity last game and I’d stick with him. while not lighting up the night with his performance, he didn’t have any glaring issues either. Like Wallace, he’ll be better with his first run out of the way and in front of a home crowd.
Come back tomorrow for the New South Wales team, where I’ll name the same 17 players who lined up for games 1 and 2. Don’t miss it!