With the 2012 State of Origin series just around the corner, the chat around who will represent New South Wales is really starting to heat up.
Ricky Stuart has already begun his mind games, and plenty of players are emphatically stating their case for selection.
While there is still plenty of football to be played before the team is announced, today The Roar‘s selection committee of one nominates its New South Wales Blues side for this year’s encounter.
When selecting an Origin side, you hear plenty of strategies and countless schools of thought.
Don’t pick players out of position. Don’t pick players out of form. Pick club combinations. Pick players who are ‘made for Origin’. Pick players with Origin experience. Stay loyal to the players you picked last time. Pick young players and build for the future. Don’t pick anyone under an injury could.
While all have some merit, I’ve completely ignored all such policies. My strategy for picking this year’s Blues squad? The team that will give New South Wales the best chance of beating Queensland.
Drum roll please…
1 Josh Dugan
He’s inconsistent and prone to costly mental errors. But he’s also a match-winner. So all in all, he’s a bit of a gamble. But having lost six series in a row, I would suggest that the Blues needs to roll the dice.
2 Brett Morris
He’s in sparkling form in the number one jersey for the Dragons, and is one of the deadliest finishers in the game. He’s still a bit inexperienced at fullback to be thrown into that position at Origin level, but his form warrants selection in his natural position on the wing.
3 Michael Jennings
The Penrith centre runs some brilliant lines. His pace, use of angles, and general speed with which he hits the line all make him a handful for defences to contain. He’s been in pretty good form for the Panthers, and was excellent in last year’s series, so he’s practically an automatic selection.
4 Jarryd Hayne
What’s his natural position? Who cares, select him wherever you need him. The Queenslanders were shocked and then delighted when Hayne was overlooked for Origin one last year. The fear and respect he commands north of the border demonstrates how highly he’s regarded.
He’s a class player with an unbelievable skill set, and has consistently performed at Origin level. He needs to be in the team, period, and if that’s at right centre, so be it.
5 Akuila Uate
The Newcastle winger burst onto the representative scene with a stunning performance in the City versus Country match last season, and then backed that up with a brilliant debut Origin series, in which he may have been the Blues best player. The blockbusting Novocastrian is all but assured of his wing spot.
6 Todd Carney
This may not be a popular pick, but Origin isn’t about making friends, it’s about winning. And that’s something New South Wales hasn’t done for a long, long time.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, and Carney is a footballing freak. You can’t teach talent, something Carney has in bucketloads, and I think he could provide New South Wales with the X-factor required to beat Queensland.
He’s been trouble free, and that is realistically the only reason you wouldn’t pick a player with his ability. It’s time.
7 Jarrod Mullen
Mullen has matured this year, and his kicking game, long and short, has been very good. I like the options Mullen gives you in attack, and his defence is absolutely superb.
I also believe Mitchell Pearce needs a rocket up his pants. Continually selecting Pearce without justification, be it club form or past Origin performances, sends the wrong message to all New South Wales players.
8 Michael Weyman
The big Saints prop is in great form, providing plenty of go-forward. And a few weeks ago he even scored a brilliant solo try, complete with a right foot step. Essentially picks himself.
9 Danny Buderus
Having watched Buderus a few times this year, it has suddenly occurred to me that most hookers in the NRL don’t actually know how to play the position.
Perhaps it’s because they’ve been converted from another position. Or perhaps they were simply never taught the basics of dummy-half play. Whatever the reason, the ability of Buderus to quickly pick the ball up and pass it laterally to his forwards, without looking, is an incredibly important part of the hooking role.
Too many hookers hold the ball for too long, or take a step or two sideways or backwards, or look up to see who they’re passing to, or pass the ball two to three metres backwards. Or make all four mistakes.
Origin is the quickest rugby league in the world, and those vital half-second delays can make all the difference in gaining 10 to 15 metres per set of six. New South Wales need to pick the best dummy half. And that’s Danny Buderus by a country mile, regardless of his age.
10 Kade Snowden
Snowden won’t shy away from the hard work or from confronting Queensland’s big pack head on. He’s been playing pretty well for the Knights, and is bursting at the seams to have a crack at the vaunted Maroons line-up.
11 Anthony Watmough
The term ‘made for Origin’ is horribly overused. But there is no better way to describe Anthony Watmough. Tough, talented and hard. He also has a touch (OK, a lot) of mongrel. He’s the first forward I would pick for the Blues.
12 Glen Stewart
Provides an extra option in attack with his five-eighth like skills, while not shirking away from the traditional backrower’s responsibilities of running hard out wide, and helping to protect his halves in the defensive line.
13 Paul Gallen
I won’t insult Gallen by attempting to justify why he should be captain, let alone selected.
14 Luke Lewis
The hard working and inspirational Panther does whatever is required of his team. Every Origin team needs a player like that, and Lewis’ experience and versatility earn him a spot on the bench.
15 Beau Scott
If the Blues select Gallen in the front row, then I expect Scott will actually start for New South Wales. But as it stands now, the defensive juggernaut should start the game on the bench, before his work rate and defensive nous is called upon when the starting forwards tire.
16 James Tamou
Big, strong and athletic. If he has declared himself to be a New South Welshman rather than a Kiwi, then he should be picked. The Maroons certainly won’t be looking forward to facing a fresh and pumped up Tamou after he’s been steaming on the bench for the first 20 minutes.
17 Kurt Gidley
Has struggled to stay on the park this year, but if he can prove his fitness, his versatility makes him the ideal utility player off the bench.
Let the dissection and debate begin.