We all know what happened in the 2011 State of Origin series. So how’s this for a New South Wales Origin team for 2012?
Fullbacks: Josh Dugan or Brett Stewart.
Wingers: Akuila Uate and Brett Morris.
Centres: Michael Jennings and Mark Gasnier.
Second receiver: Jarryd Hayne.
Halfback: Todd Carney.
Hooker: Kurt Gidley.
Props: Gallen and Keith Galloway.
Second row: Ben Creagh and Glenn Stewart.
Lock: Luke Lewis.
Bench: Anthony Watmough, Jamal Idris, Tariq Sims and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs.
Big games are decided by the crucial 1, 6, 7 and 9 spine positions, and NSW Blues coach and selector Ricky Stuart got it horribly wrong during the 2011 series.
I cannot find a place for any of his starting spine players he chose in the deciding Origin III. All four are outclassed by their Maroon counterparts.
The selection of Minichiello was more incompetent than embarrassing, but the Blues will gain a huge boost with either Dugan or Stewart, who are both world class and arguably in the same class as Slater.
Jamie Soward and Mitch Pearce are both wonderful clubs players but can only ever be described as “handy” at the elite level. “Handy” is simply not good enough when you have to counter Jonathan Thurston.
The troubled Todd Carney has the god given talent to equal any player, and if he can get his head right and find his best form, he would be an automatic selection.
Jarryd Hayne is too good to be left out (as he was in Origin I) or put on the bench, and he certainly adds more to the Blues at second receiver than what Jamie Soward has. Importantly, Hayne and Carney are both freakish and would complement each other well and be a major worry for Mal Meninga who has not lost much sleep over the Soward-Pearce pairing.
Kurt Gidley is one of the best and fittest players in the world and could do a Cam Smith and play for 80 minutes offering an extra interchange.
Lewis is a better player than Bird and should start. I would add to the bench Jamal Idris, Tariq Sims and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs who are all impact players.
Gone would be Anthony Minichiello, Jamie Soward, Mitchell Pearce, Michael Ennis and Tim Mannah. Beau Scott and Greg Bird would also go despite the fact they both went well this year, but unfortunately there are players in their positions who offer more to the team.
So, there is my blueprint pipe dream for a winning Blues team. I would back this team to win more games than they lose, but sadly that is all it is, a dream.
As long as NSW have a dictator as a coach who wants to be sole selector and god, the Maroons will continue to have the edge.
The Maroons have lost Lockyer and probably Petero, but they will get back Shillington, Taylor, Te’o, Costigan and Crocker to consider and may introduce big Rooster prop Martin Kennedy along with future national rep player Matt Gillett.
Leading try scorer Ben Barba could be a bench consideration. The Maroons will lose young Raider forward Josh Papalii to New Zealand, although maybe the new IC will correct that dumb clause.
With a Queenslander tipped to be the new chairman of the Independent Commission, it is unlikely that NSW will get independent selectors.