2011 NSW State of Origin team named; expert reaction

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

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    New South Wales State of Origin team 2011 announced

    New South Wales State of Origin team 2011 announced AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    NSW selectors seemed to have learnt some lessons from the past, and, for the most part, have picked in-form players, in position. It sounds like an obvious selection strategy, but it’s certainly not something they have adhered to in recent times.

    Looking for the team for game three?
    NSW Origin team for game 3 [expert analysis]

    Looking for the team for game two?
    NSW Origin team for second game

    The inclusion of Dugan, Jennings and Soward, amongst others, indicates that NSW recognise that they need to score more points if they are to defeat Queensland. In the past, there have been some negative selections based on defence, but the reality is that the Maroons backline is so potent that no matter how strong a defensive side you select, they’ll still score their share of tries. So instead, why not be positive, and simply try to outscore them?

    It’s a bold strategy, but after losing 5 series in a row, something had to change.

    But whether that is enough to beat a rampant Queensland, motivated to send Darren Lockyer out a winner, remains to be seen…

    Fullback: Josh Dugan
    Whilst the ascension of Dugan to NSW fullback has been mooted for some time, I was still a little surprised to hear confirmation he had replaced Jarryd Hayne. Dugan is a special talent, and the selectors and Ricky Stuart obviously believe that Dugan can replicate his club moments of magic, at Origin level. Considering NSW’s struggle to beat Queensland in recent times, I have to applaud the gamble, even if I was a tad shocked.

    Left Winger: Brett Morris
    Blistering pace, in-form, good size and a great finisher. What else do you want from your Origin winger?

    Right Centre: Mark Gasnier
    Now that he has his ‘rugby league body’ back, ‘Gaz’ has returned to his customary standing amongst the game’s elite centres. He adds an attacking weapon the Blues have sorely lacked. His footwork is outstanding, his defence brilliant, and everyone is looking forward to his battle with Greg Inglis.

    Left Centre: Michael Jennings
    I have to admit to being surprised that Jennings got the nod. His chief talent is scoring tries, but he hasn’t been doing a lot of that this season. Whilst Idris is a natural right centre, he played on the left for Australia, and it wouldn’t have been a shock to see him picked on the left hand side for NSW. But Jennings is a dangerous attacking player, and a specialist left centre, and Ricky made it clear he didn’t want to pick players out of position.

    Right Winger: Akuila Uate
    Booked his spot with a powerhouse display in City/Country. Big, fast and strong, he takes a lot of stopping with his damaging runs. Looks suited to Origin football, and the rookie will enjoy playing outside Gasnier.

    Five Eighth: Jamie Soward
    The most talked about position, and most contentious selection. But as I have said before, he has earned the right to personally answer the question of whether or not he is up to Origin level.

    His defence and attacking skills have been called into question in the past, but both have been excellent of late, especially his new-found willingness to attack the defensive line. Hopefully, the negative field goal tactics from Friday night were just an aberration.

    Halfback: Mitchell Pearce
    Not in great form at club level, but was superb in City/Country. Perhaps he just needs to get away from the crazy house that The Chookpen has become. Along with Soward, needs a big game, because Jarrod Mullen is breathing down his neck.

    Lock: Paul Gallen (c)
    Almost the lone automatic selection in the team. Tough, uncompromising and often tip-toes the line between aggression and foul play. But Gallen is made for Origin football. Hopefully the responsibility of captain will help him control his emotions, because he’ll need to lead by example.

    Second Row: Greg Bird
    Like Gallen, Bird was born to play Origin football, and is one of Ricky Stuart’s favourite players. Hard, strong and always itching for a contest, Bird and Gallen will take it upon themselves to show Queensland that NSW has plenty of passion as well.

    Second Row: Beau Scott
    I think Scott was lucky to be picked. He lacks Origin-type impact in both attack and defence. A solid player, no question, but I believe he’s the product of playing in a good team, rather than being a great player himself. He looked out of his depth last year, but to be fair, that was in the centres, not the second row. Still, you can be sure Queensland would prefer to face Scott rather than, for example, Anthony Watmough.

    Front Row: Kade Snowden
    Will be asked to provide the NSW pack with plenty of go-forward. Don’t underestimate his importance for the Blues, because he can make everyone’s job easier by laying a foundation for the rest of the team and setting the tone for the forward battle.

    Hooker: Michael Ennis
    It was always going to be a tight choice between Farrah and Ennis, but ‘The Menace’ got the nod, and one can only assume that his niggle was as much of a defining selection factor as his dummy-half play. In any case, he’s supremely talented at both.

    Front Row: Jason King
    Bit of a surprise, considering he has some fitness questions marks, but does provide plenty of the grunt needed for a State of Origin encounter. NSW will be counting on him to take the ball up and absorb the expected early onslaught from a fired up Queensland.

    Interchange:

    Ben Creagh
    Surprisingly named on the bench, rather than starting. Nonetheless, his damaging runs out wide, and ability to run off Soward, will be a cornerstone of the Blues attack. Has been in great form for the Dragons, but needs to carry that into Origin, where even his biggest fans would have to admit that he has yet to make a name for himself. Well, apart from infamously running away from a fight.

    Trent Merrin
    I actually thought he might be in the starting line-up, instead of King. But perhaps it’s wise to bring him in off the bench. The fire and brimstone early clashes of Origin are no place for a rookie, but when the game settles down, look for the Dragons prop to enter with immediate impact.

    Tim Mannah
    Mannah has been one of the few shining lights in the Parramatta pack, and therefore gets another chance at Origin level. Might see game time earlier than expected, considering Jason King can’t possibly be 100%.

    Dean Young:
    A solid player in good form, who certainly has the toughness required for Origin football. Can play hooker or anywhere in the back row, but it’s debatable whether NSW had the luxury to pick Young on the bench, when a more skilful backline player may have been a better idea.

    Those missing out:

    Jarryd Hayne
    Hayne has probably been the Blues best player over the last two or three series and his absence will raise a few eyebrows. Particularly north of the border, where he may not be liked, but is extremely well respected.

    It’s hard to believe that a team that has lost five series in a row can afford not to pick a player of his talents, but Ricky Stuart hinted that he doesn’t view Hayne as a fullback, yet wouldn’t pick players out of their club position – thus dooming Hayne.

    Robbie Farrah
    With Soward getting the nod at number 6, I thought NSW may need the extra creativity that Farrah provides with the ball in-hand. The selectors thought otherwise, but he must have been very close to getting picked.

    Kurt Gidley
    Perhaps the thought of a less than 100% Gidley was too much of a gamble. Whatever the reason, his ability to run at tired Queensland legs, or interchange for any injury to the backline, would have been useful off the bench.

    Jamal Idris
    Despite his weaknesses, Queensland would have preferred not to have to deal with him. That alone suggests to me that he would have been a worthy selection gamble.

    Tom Leahroyd-Lahrs
    NSW’s best forward last year, and returned to form in the City/Country game. But a slow start to the season has cost him a spot.

    Jarrod Mullen
    Absolutely no truth to the rumours that he hired a hitman to take out Soward and Pearce…

    Read all the info for State of Origin 2011

    More reactions: NSW Blues – Playmakers Overlooked

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • May 15th 2011 @ 7:22pm
      TRUE BLUE said | May 15th 2011 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

      I think the Hayne plane deservered to keep his spot at fullback theres a few players that origin brings the best out of and Hayne is one of them. Even when Thurston is having a bad run with the cowboys come origin he’s firing When Parra made there famous run to the finals in 2009 it was off the back of Hayne’s form coming off the origin series he has been the best player for NSW over recent years and you know you will get 120% from him he also creates another ball player and option apart from soward and pearce to keep those cane toads guessing also concidering Dugan hasn’t been 100% since coming back from injury early and state of origin isnt a place to find out the hard way! Over all it is a strong team I would have big Idris in the squad the size and stregth of the beast is enough to put him in the squad he did make an impact coming in off the bench last series. I dont think pearce deserves to be there either Mullen would have been my first choice other than those three the squad looks great. While were talking about NSW I would like Gus to sit up and listen!!!! The gripes and disagreement/s you have with the board of NSWRL should be put aside and you should be thinking about NSW and there loyal fans the one’s who even after 5 years of dissapointment will still go out and buy a 2011 NSW jersey the one’s who after every origin game have to turn off there phone and deal with the txts in the morning the one’s who will fly to suncorp amongst the enemy and cheer on there team the one’s that would cut off there right arm to be apart of the NSW camp the one’s you talk about every Sunday roast you owe it to us!!! The impact you would bring to the NSW camp is priceless and frankly I think your being selfish if its out of your hands I appoligise but if you know you can help then you need to, NSW needs you NSW’s fans need you!!! Its time to turn the other cheek and do whats right for our state even if its not right by you do it for us gus your state needs you!!!!!

      GO THE BLUES!!!!!!!!!!!

    • May 15th 2011 @ 7:22pm
      AT said | May 15th 2011 @ 7:22pm | ! Report

      No Idris? How can you play for your country one week, but not your state the next?

      Ben Creagh is an 80 minute player, not an impact bench player. He should start. For Scott. Who shouldn’t be anywhere near this team, let alone starting.

      • May 25th 2011 @ 10:50pm
        Kanga said | May 25th 2011 @ 10:50pm | ! Report

        State of Origin is not a selection ground for Australian selections. The Australian selection process is a joke. The state of origin is now more important to the NRL.Therefore Idris is good for Australia but Origin is to hard for him. Remember the Australia team was selected very early in the season, and they played the 1st game against New Zealand the same night that Country played City for Blues selection. NRL are ridiculous for promoting State of Origin above Australian selections.

    • May 15th 2011 @ 7:39pm
      aduardo said | May 15th 2011 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

      Shame idris wasn’t picked, as a QLD supporter I could see his suspect defence (rushing up) being used to our advantage. I see your point with all the people you have listed, but I also think that Luke Lewis had to be there. He lifted Penrith to beat Brisbane the other night. He has to be there, for mine.

    • May 15th 2011 @ 8:25pm
      mango jack said | May 15th 2011 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

      Would have preferred Farah as back up to Ennis, rather than Young. Play Ennis for the blood and guts part, then bring on Robbie to open them up when their forwards are tired.

    • May 15th 2011 @ 8:25pm
      Davo said | May 15th 2011 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

      If NSW need his lordship Gus Gould to deliver a pre-match sermon then we are already gone.
      There are definitely some points in this backline but Qld would be quite happy to see no Hayne,Idris,Watmough or Learoyd Lars.

      • May 15th 2011 @ 8:44pm
        Damo said | May 15th 2011 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

        Totally agree with you and Ryan. Selection criteria should be, who WOULDNT Qld want to play against?

    • May 15th 2011 @ 8:50pm
      Bronchampions said | May 15th 2011 @ 8:50pm | ! Report

      Now, im not a Broncs fan or Qld fan but how awesome are the Broncs (minor hiccup to the peni cats but on track for an easy 2011 title, which incidentally will see the Broncs remain as the most successful team in the history of the NRL with an amazing record of winning a title every 3.8 years, no other team comes close!) and Qld (5 series in a row, to be 6, nuf said) going!

      Awesome that Stuart has barked about form and then these are the players he picks in key positions:

      1. Josh ‘Forget the team, look at me’ Dugan: when the tuff gets goin (arent the failders on fire – huge form there Sticky date), dugs get going, off the field, no where to be seen…

      2. Pearce to guide you around… the rooooooters are so good they lost to the toothless sharks! haha

      3. There once was a man named Enis…he played for the Broncs so he’s cool

      and 3 points in closing:

      1. Clearly New Struggle Wallys are getting desperate when their last hope is to try to copy QLD by getting as close to them as possible but only emerging as a cheap knock off, trying to be the i-pad when they are the i-poood…what am i talking about? Heres the qld link, Bennet! He coaches st Drags, theres 7 of them in the NSW side! Amazing insight there by me, i know!

      2. And now the bench… if it were a real bench in any park it would be the rickety old one in the corner with no table cuz no one wants to sit on that bench, it looks weak…has there been a weaker bench in origin history?

      3rd and finally…Now im not a Broncs or Qld fan but in terms of your team, I wonder what the Never Say Win fans think?

      ps (dont worry, can’t get into too much detail here but its the pink elephant in my genius rant)…Soward

      • May 16th 2011 @ 7:56am
        oikee said | May 16th 2011 @ 7:56am | ! Report

        Not so sure, this team looks like it could choke the life outta Queensland. Mal had better have our team switched on.
        We lose the 1st game we could be under the pump and in trouble.

        • May 16th 2011 @ 9:37am
          Jay said | May 16th 2011 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          I dont think the NSW team is capable of winning at Lang Park is QLD have most of their players fit.

          Long-term though.. a series win for the blues is just around the corner

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