NSW Blues team for Origin game 3 (expert reaction)
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NSW selectors and coach Ricky Stuart have understandably kept the faith in the NSW Blues team that won State of Origin 2011 game 2, and will attempt to head to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane for the deciding match with a team that is largely unchanged.
Looking for Queensland’s team?
Queensland side for Origin 3 (expert reaction)
The NSW team for game 3 does, however, have a number of injury concerns, forcing selectors to name an extended 20 man squad.
But providing all players pass their physical examinations, the only change to the side will be Michael Jennings or Brett Morris returning from injury and replacing Will Hopoate, who was ruled out with injury himself.
The Blues selection continuity clearly indicates that NSW believe their strategy of selecting a mobile, athletic and rangy forward pack will once again be the key to defeating the Maroons.
Momentum and confidence are wonderful qualities to have in sport, and NSW enter the deciding match with an abundance of both.
But if they think that will be enough to defeat a fired up Queensland, playing at home, and desperate to send Darren Lockyer out a winner, they’ll be sorely mistaken.
It would have been sheer madness to drop ‘The Count’ after his stellar game 2 performance, and he justifiably earns another sky blue jumper. Minichello’s defensive positioning was outstanding and it went a long way to neutering the Maroons potent kicking game.
Some pundits thought Hayne had a quiet game in Sydney, but more than anything else, it indicates the high benchmark he’s set for himself.
He was very good, particularly in defence, and his move into the centres should see him get more attacking opportunities in Brisbane.
‘Gaz’ was outstanding in defence, partnering with Dragons teammates Jamie Soward and Beau Scott to totally shut down the Maroons dangerous left side attack.
However, he’s yet to fully unleash his attacking ability in the 2011 Origin series, and the Blues will be hoping his skills are on show game 3.
Returns to the Blues set-up after overcoming his hamstring injury, and if he plays, he’ll be under a little bit of pressure. He made a costly defensive error in game 1, and Queensland believes he’s somewhat of a weak link.
The Penrith centre has made a miraculous recovery from injury. Or so NSW hope. He was one of the Blues best in game 1 and if he can prove his fitness, it will set up a tantalising clash with Justin Hodges.
Looks dangerous every time he touches the ball, and NSW would be well served by providing him with more opportunities. With his scant regard for personal safety on his cannonball-like runs, he’s rapidly becoming a crowd favourite.
Started very slowly in game 2, before taking command of the game. Quick and skilful, when he attacks the line, NSW are a different side.
However, he simply can’t afford to take 30 minutes to get into the game – NSW need him firing from the kick off.
Like Soward, he started slowly in Sydney, and his kicking game was woeful early on. But once he settled, he played very well, and set up the Blues first try.
His defence, highlighted by his smothering tackles on Sam Thaiday, has been nothing short of brilliant.
The prototype of the NSW forward pack: strong, skilful and versatile. He was outstanding in game 1, solid in game 2, and is fired up to lead the Blues to a series victory in game 3.
Ran some beautiful lines in Sydney, making lots of ‘sneaky’ meters. He was one of the keys to the Blues constant go forward with his incisive cuts back into the middle of the park.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought Scott was overrated. Now I can’t rate him highly enough. Tough, strong and always itching for a contest. An absolutely outstanding defender who has been a thorn in Queensland’s side in both games.
Paul Gallen (c)
Thoroughly deserved all the kudos he received after his game 2 performance. No hyperbole here: it was one of the greatest individual matches in Origin history. Gallen is proving to be an inspirational and dream skipper for the Blues.
The niggly hooker is certainly a polarising figure. Half of NSW fans love his passion, tenacity and ability to get under the Maroons skins. The other half think he’s a grub destined to cost NSW a victory via a brain snap.
Both sets of fans are probably right.
NSW will simply ask for more of the same from the workman-like Parramatta prop. Run hard and strong. Tackle hard and strong.
Has yet to have any real impact on the Origin series. He now has a few games under his belt, and NSW will be hoping game 3 is when he closes the gap between potential and actually delivering.
Came off the bench and gave the Blues a real spark at dummy half, before moving into the centres when Hopoate got injured.
He’s under an injury cloud, but he’ll be doing everything he can to prove his fitness, so that he can get a five year old monkey off his back.
Scored NSW’s opening try and was a roadblock in defence. Like Bird, Lewis epitomises the NSW forward pack, and can fill any number roles for coach Ricky Stuart.
Broken record time: this guy is made for Origin. An absolute firecracker off the bench, Watmough throws his body into everything he does, in both attack and defence. Uncompromising, tough and talented, he’s the proverbial bull in the China shop.
The Tigers prop receives a call-up to the NSW team, and many believe it’s long overdue. Big Red will give 100% if called upon, but I think this selection is an encouragement award, and Galloway won’t actually play.
He certainly doesn’t fit into NSW’s newly adopted strategy of speed!
Stewart is essentially covering Beau Scott, who has an injury concern. But Stewart has performed well for the Blues before, and he certainly ticks the boxes of skill, athleticism and versatility.
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.