WIZ: The Blues can win State of Origin game one
NSW Blues coach Ricky Stuart with Glenn Stewart and Paul Gallen. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy
There were a few surprises in the Blues side named over the weekend, but it’s still a very strong team and one that I think can do the job on the Maroons on Wednesday night.
The big shock for me was that Watmough didn’t make the squad. He has been one of the standout players over the first 10 rounds and his omission just blew me away.
I know there were injury concerns around him, but from what I’ve heard, he seems to be fine to play on the weekend and NSW could use his tough, big game intensity.
The other player I thought deserved a spot was Tariq Sims, who should have been picked on the bench. He showed in the City-Country match that he can be very explosive with and without the ball.
I’m very happy with Tony Williams’ selection.
With the 10 interchanges, this gives Ricky the ability to get him on for 10 or 15 minutes – have a big impact (literally) – then get him off again.
He can do this because both Bird and Glenn Stuart are 80 minute players. I’ve always liked Greg Bird as a player, though I would have picked him in the second row and had Stuart at lock.
While on the forwards, congratulations to Jamie Buhrer on his elevation. It must be a great thrill for the kid, who has done a superb job coming off the bench for the Sea Eagles.
The backs largely picked themselves, except for Jennings, who was obviously very lucky to be in the side.
Stuart has shown a heap of loyalty to the players, and I understand that from a coaches point of view.
But this is a massive game for Jeninngs’ career. It’s probably going to dictate how he plays for the rest of the season, especially as his club side, Penrith, won without him on the weekend.
As for Jarryd Hayne, I wouldn’t have picked him at all. His selection, based on his form this year, is just not warranted.
Instead, I would have gone for the two Morris boys Josh and Brett, both of whom are big and strong and would relish playing together in the Origin cauldron.
Hayne was very, very lucky.
Todd Carney has been the in-form five-eight this season and Cronulla have been playing great football on the back of his direction. I’ve been especially impressed with his control on the field. He seems to have really matured as a player.
His combination with Mitchell Pearce will be crucial.
Luckily, both guys have played well together before and they have a lot of respect for each other’s game. They’ve always gotten on well personally, which helps.
Where I differ from many pundits is that I don’t think there will be lot of points scored in Game One.
If you look at all the games over Origin history, there really hasn’t been too much in most of them. Defence, rather than attack, is generally is the key to winning these games.
It’s going to be brutal, it’s going to have that physicality. And these guys are going to go hard.
It could blow up like a great Origin game from yesteryear.
Go the Blues!
Gary ‘Wiz’ Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joins The Roar as an expert rugby league columnist.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2013.