Months of debate will come to an end this afternoon when the New South Wales team for game one of the State of Origin series is named.
Well … it won’t really. Ricky Stuart could probably name three sides and still not satisfy everyone.
This is who I believe should get the nod to take on the Maroons in Melbourne on May 23.
1. Brett Stewart
Showed superb acceleration to score in his comeback from injury in round eight against the Bulldogs. His ability to find and hit a hole is second only to Billy Slater. Had a rough night against the Broncos on Friday, but those are rare.
2. Jarryd Hayne
New South Wales will need some big bodies on the edges. Hayne isn’t a better fullback than Brett Stewart in my opinion, but needs to be in the team. He has shown an ability to break open a game from the wing before and if given the chance will do so again.
3. Josh Morris
The 25-year-old has been the form NSW centre in 2012. It seemed his career had stalled after being dropped to the NSW Cup last season, but has flourished under new coach Des Hasler scoring nine tries in 10 games.
4. Chris Lawrence
Ricky Stuart has been waiting for Lawrence to produce his best form, but so far it hasn’t come. The Australian international hasn’t been poor, but hasn’t set the world on fire either. Still, at least he’s playing first grade, which is more than can be said for Michael Jennings. Ivan Cleary dropped the Penrith flyer for a reason. Lawrence gets the spot by default.
5. Aku Uate
The Knights might not have been impressive in 2012, but Aku Uate is one of Ricky Stuart’s certainties. A winger with the size of a front-rower and the speed of a sprinter. What’s not to love?
6. Todd Carney
Carney has been building quietly this season and finally broke out of his shell with a superb performance against South Sydney last Monday night. His kicking game is also second to none. His familiarity with his likely halves partner is another huge bonus.
7. Mitchell Pearce
Pearce seemed to have had enough of the speculation and killed off the debate surrounding the number seven jersey by dominating for City against Country. His form for the Roosters since then has also been solid. Future captain if he wants it bad enough.
8. James Tamou
Recently swapped the haka for Advance Australia Fair and somehow didn’t get poached by Queensland along the way despite playing his football with the North Queensland Cowboys. A mountain of a man who didn’t seemed phased in the slightest by his debut for the Kangaroos against New Zealand. Will handle State of Origin nicely.
9. Robbie Farah
He may not be shaking everyone’s hand in camp after having his credentials questioned by members of the coaching staff, but has made an irresistible case for inclusion. His ball playing ability combined with the option of a left foot kick out of dummy half gives New South Wales another outlet. The less predictable NSW can be the better. They need to give him the jersey for the entire series though.
10. Paul Gallen
Err… what’s left to be said? The only concern is a knee injury that flared up six-days ago, but you’d have to amputate his leg to stop him playing. He’ll battle through every minute of every game if he has to.
11. Luke Lewis
Luke Lewis would probably be the New South Wales captain if Paul Gallen wasn’t around. One of the toughest players in the NRL and won’t have to overplay his hand like he sometimes feels he has to at Penrith.
12. Anthony Watmough
Has calmed down in recent years, but still gets through an enormous amount of work. A constant menace who’ll test Queensland’s edges.
13. Glenn Stewart
Another who has only recently returned from injury. Combines toughness with great skill with the footy in hand. He also, not surprisingly combines extremely well with brother Brett. Picking players who already have an understanding of one another is the key against Queensland’s settled juggernaut. A possible suspension for a high tackle on Friday night against the Broncos is the only worry. Poor judiciary record won’t help if he’s charged.
14. Tariq Sims
A forward built for representative football. One of the few shining lights for Country against City and he’s hungry for more.
15. Greg Bird
A luxury to have on the bench considering the current state of Queensland dominance. Grows another leg when playing in Sky Blue.
16. Aaron Woods
Some say he needs another 12-months, but the statistics being produced by the Wests Tigers young-gun suggests otherwise. No harm in giving him a taste of the big time so he’s more prepared next year.
17. Josh Reynolds
The surprise packet of the season. His effort is the same in the first minute as it is in the 79th. Could cover a range of positions and is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve seen on a football field for some time. He has heart and potential. Two key ingredients.