NSW team for State of Origin game two named (expert reaction)
NSW selectors and Ricky Stuart were expected to make limited changes to the Blues side for the second game in the State of Origin series, especially since Stuart had talked about the need to show loyalty and build a culture. However, injury and a change in tactics have seen the Blues hierarchy make a slew changes, some of them quite drastic and unexpected.
- Paul Gallen moves to front row, and Ben Creagh comes into the starting line-up;
- Kurt Gidley returns from injury and replaces Dean Young on the bench;
- Will Hopoate will make his debut, in place of the injured Michael Jennings
- Jarryd Hayne takes Brett Morris’ left wing position
- Luke Lewis gets a call-up with Jason King dropped
- Anthony Watmough earns a recall for the injured Kade Snowden
At the announcement of the team for game one, coach Stuart made it quite clear that he was determined to pick players in the positions that they play at club level. Yet Stuart has now been forced to select a few players technically out of position.
Whilst Stuart will claim that circumstances dictated that he needed to make the back-flip, the truth is that all the ‘specialists’ talk was slightly over hyped. Would you rather pick an average, but specialist position player? Or an outstanding versatile player?
With the addition of Hayne and Hopoate, the NSW backline looks impressive, classy and unpredictable. I suspect Mal Meninga will be ever so tense looking at the abundance of game breakers that NSW now have at their disposal.
Of course, an awesome backline is useless without a forward pack gaining metres, and the selectors have decided that athleticism, rather than size, may be the key to the forward battle. The team for Sydney only has two specialist front rowers, but a number of rangy backrowers capable of doing the hard work in the middle of the park.
The NSW backline once again looks potent, but the key will still be the battle upfront, and the ability of the NSW halves to use the considerable talent outside them, by shifting the ball out wide.
Whilst he’s no certainty to play after picking up an ankle injury against the Cowboys, Ricky Stuart keeps the faith in his young fullback, and it’s the right decision. He showed some promising signs in Origin one, particularly under the high ball in defusing some Queensland bombs. However, he’ll need to improve his defensive positioning and communication with teammates, as the Maroons are likely to utilise their four-pronged tactical kicking again, with Smith, Thurston, Lockyer and Cronk.
After all the talk, Hayne finally returns to the NSW line-up, albeit through injury. His performance against the Dragons rubber stamped his selection, and his presence gives the NSW backline a very potent, explosive and classy feel. I think he’ll be bursting at the seams to show everyone what a massive mistake it was to ever leave him out.
Whilst fantastic in defence in game one, NSW selected ‘Gaz’ primarily for his attacking skills, and he was very disappointing in that area. He’ll be looking to bounce back strongly, and would dearly love to get some pay-back on Dragons teammate Darius Boyd for his crunching tackles at Suncorp Stadium.
This was a bit of a shock. However, I wrote earlier in the year that I thought young Hoppa was “a representative player of the future – maybe sooner rather than later.” He has a touch of class about him, has plenty of ‘time’ with the ball, and a lot of ability. It could prove to be an inspired selection by the NSW selectors.
NSW need to get the right side of their attack more involved in the Sydney rematch, because Uate looked very dangerous with limited touches. If Gasnier can be given a bit more time and space, and Boyd continues to come off his wing in the hope of whacking his Dragons teammate, Uate could make Queensland pay.
Was excellent in defence in Brisbane, but that’s not why he was selected. He needs to get more involved in attack, particularly with his kicking game, which is considered one of the best in the NRL. Quite simply, he needs to command more of the ball, even if it means barking at Mitchell Pearce.
Has been way down on form all season, and continued that into Origin one. Whilst I don’t think he was ever in danger of being dropped, he must be relieved that Jarrod Mullen is injured. Certainly needs a big game two, because he’s dangerously close to being categorised as being in a complete form slump – if he isn’t in one already. If he struggles again in game two, he may even be replaced in-game by Gidley.
Was excellent in game one, but just had a tendency to go missing for small periods of the game. NSW doesn’t have the superstar depth at its disposal that Queensland has, and the Blues therefore cannot afford for him to do anything but fire for the entire time he’s on the field.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: Ben Creagh is not an impact player suited to coming off the bench. His athleticism and running are better suited to an 80 minute role, and I applaud Stuart for recognising this and promoting him into the starting line-up.
I’m a convert. He’s certainly made me a believer after I questioned his inclusion in game one, but the egg is firmly on my face. Was the standout defensive forward from either team, and was up in Queensland’s faces all game long.
Paul Gallen (c)
The move to the front row is little more than a change of jersey number. Gallen has always played like a prop, and it should make little difference to his game. Apart from his brain snap decision to throw a pass in-goal, which luckily went unpunished, Ricky Stuart will simply ask for more of the same from his skipper. Inspirational, tough and talented, the captaincy seemed to bring out the best in Gallen.
His shocking decision to kick on the fourth tackle, which was neither attacking nor defensive, led directly to Queensland gaining excellent field position to score the winning try. It means Ennis has now cost NSW two games of Origin in a row. No one doubts his talents, including his toughness, but when you combine his mental errors with his occasional grubby behaviour, can NSW really afford to keep picking him?
Based on the fact that he was the one NSW prop to have any real impact in game one, it’s a wise decision to promote Mannah to the starting line-up. He’ll no doubt have one instruction from Ricky Stuart ringing in his ears: improve the Blues go forward. With Matt Scott eating up meters in game one, NSW are well aware they need their props to hit back.
Will have hopefully learnt a lot from his Origin debut, and should be better for the hit out and experience. I expect him to play an important role in game two.
Origin is the fastest and most intense brand of rugby league that exists. It means that players get tired in the second half, as the occasion takes its toll. Fresh legs can therefore prove vital, and NSW will be looking to Gidley to spark them by running at the tired Queensland forwards. He could be the x-factor NSW require.
Forces his way into the team via his irresistible form; Lewis basically left the selectors with no choice but to pick him. Apart from being in great form, he can cover multiple positions and has plenty of experience at this level.
A brilliant decision by the NSW selectors. ‘Choc’ is made for Origin, and will be sensational coming off the bench to give the Blues an instant impact. It’s a cliché, but he’s made for Origin football.
Those missing out:
Thankfully, NSW will cease with its two hooker strategy. Considering the Blues strength is their backrow, I saw little need to bolster it by selecting Young to cover there and hooker. This bench position should have always had gone to a reserve back with the ability to change the game in the second half.
A lot has been said about NSW needing to learn how to be loyal. That’s all good and well, but it doesn’t mean you can’t admit you made a selection mistake. King is not an Origin player, has not been in great form, has fitness concerns, and lacked impact in game one. It is therefore not a shock that he was dropped for game two.
Brett Morris, Michael Jennings
Both Morris and Jennis were ruled out with injury, while Mullen suffered a torn pectoral to leave him out of considerations
Lacked any impact in game one, and it’s hard to recall him doing anything of note. Stuart is a big fan, but injury did what selectors should of, and ruled him out. His comments ridiculing the meters gained by his opposite, Matt Scott, showed a lot of immaturity. When outplayed, your best strategy is admitting it and focusing on performing better next time, rather than giving excuses.
Queensland will once again be celebrating the fact that they don’t need to face the Bulldogs behemoth. The way his very occasional defensive lapses are dissected and counted against him, you would think every player picked ahead of him is perfect. Put this down for the record: his positives grossly outweigh his negatives.
One of the form props in the competition, he can’t be very far away from earning his first sky blue jersey.
NSW’s attack wasn’t great in the opener, so Farrah’s creativity should have been discussed at the selection table. But NSW was never going to drop both their hookers from game one, so Farrah wasn’t even a slim chance of selection.
Big, strong and athletic. But probably short of a gallop.
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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