It’s that time of year again, when everyone starts to roll out their State of Origin teams, and despite telling myself I wouldn’t – I did. It’s time for me to have a shot at this thing as well.
Don’t try and tell yourself that you’ve never – everyone has. So here it is, behold – my team for game one of the 2013 State of Origin series.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne
Despite his obvious decline over the past few years, everyone’s kind of accepted it – Jarryd Hayne always has a spot in the NSW side.
While his production at club level has been nowhere near what it used to be, he has proven himself at Origin level time and again, and that is a quality that cannot be underestimated.
In his 16 origin appearances, he has scored seven tries. His spot may go to Brett Stewart, but in my opinion, Jarryd Hayne has been the more in-form fullback so far this year.
Wings: Brett Morris and Akuila Uate
Forgetting last night’s injury ever occurred, Brett Morris would be sure to line up on the wing for NSW come Origin time. Many have touted him as the best finisher in the comp.
He scored one try in game three of last year’s series, and if he is healthy in time for game one in Sydney, you’d expect to see the Dragons winger out there.
Akuila Uate has come under some scrutiny for his performances in past Origins, but right now, there are not too many better options at wing.
In his five Origin games, Uate has scored two tries, and his speed and strength would match well with Brett Morris’ to create a deadly wing combination for the Blues.
Centres: Michael Jennings and Josh Morris
Michael Jennings’ inclusion in Origin over the past few years has become suspect due to his dip in production, but with his new club, the Sydney Roosters, he should be one of the first on Laurie Daley’s board.
It was only last season that Jennings was being dropped from the Panthers side due to poor form, but this year, Jennings has been spectacular for the Roosters, scoring six tries in eight matches.
Despite a try-less start to the year, Josh Morris’ output is not one to be overlooked either, and this Bulldog is also set to be included each year.
He is second behind Josh Reynolds in the Bulldogs for tackles, and second behind Aiden Tolman for metres, as well as in the top five for hit-ups (second among Bulldogs backs), showing he can make an impact even without crossing the line.
Halves: James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce
The fun begins at what will be the most controversial selections of the year for a rep game – the New South Wales Blues halves.
I would have gone with the Carney/Adam Reynolds combination, but I have instead gone with the Rooster halves for a few reasons.
For me, the form New South Wales halves pairing thus far is Maloney and Adam Reynolds, of whom I think Maloney is having the better season.
Realising the potential danger in choosing two debutants in the halves for State of Origin, I went with Maloney over Reynolds, and added in the second-best halfback in the state, Mitchell Pearce.
Despite the horrors of Pearce’s previous Origin outings, and the many Einstein quotes being thrown around, Pearce will surely have learnt from these experiences, and playing alongside his club five-eighth should allow for vibrant chemistry in the pairing, as well as bolster Pearce’s confidence.
If not, then perhaps Maloney should be robbed off his hard-earned Origin berth for the good of the state.
Hooker: Robbie Farah
What once was a battle between this man and Michael Ennis to be the Blues’ hooker is now a one-man race. Robbie Farah is the obvious, choice. His 66 tackle performance in game 2 last year wrote him into the origin history books, and he should probably be the hooker for the next five years.
Props: Trent Merrin and James Tamou
Trent Merrin is the old-fashioned workhorse prop, the kind who leads his team in hit-ups (which he does, by over 20), the kind of guy the coach loves, and why wouldn’t he.
He also leads his team in run metres and is second in tackles made. Merrin should no doubt be adding to his five NSW appearances in 2013.
On the other end of the spectrum is James Tamou. Tamou is still the hard-working prop that the coaches love, only trailing Merrin by 20-odd hit-ups.
However, what Tamou brings that Merrin doesn’t is a touch of class – Tamou, despite being 15 kilograms heavier and four inches taller, brings a truckload of skill to the fray. He’s a one-of-a-kind prop that shouldn’t be ignored.
Back-rowers: Anthony Watmough, Greg Bird and Paul Gallen
Most of these guys are automatic selections. Anthony Watmough is in his ninth year with the Blues (assuming he gets selected), and has been a mainstay at the back of the scrum.
He is first in hit-ups at the Sea Eagles as well as second in tackles and run metres. His inclusion is a must.
While we’re on the topic of players we must include, I may as well bring up Greg Bird. Everyone knows this guy’s story – despite the form he is in for his club, when he puts on the sky blue jersey, it’s a completely different story.
Bird brings a toughness that is a must in Origin. He’s won two man of the matches, and he’s as solid as old boots. Not to mention he loves a dust-up – gotta have a few of those guys in the group.
And last, but the farthest on the team from least, the heart and soul of the Blues, Paul Gallen. Even if this guy wasn’t the captain of the side, he’d be the first one picked. Little more needs to be said about Gal apart from the fact that he’s the reason seven million New South Welshman think they’re in with a chance each year.
Bench: Aaron Woods, Tim Grant, Luke Lewis, Tim Mannah
These ones all seem to me like obvious inclusions. Aaron Woods has, since he picked up a football, been a Blue in waiting.
It’s simply a matter of time before he overtakes Trent Merrin for the other starting prop spot. Maybe it could happen as soon as later this year.
Tim Grant should be called back from last year. He had a successful first year of Origin and will look to build on that and become a regular Blue, whether off the bench or in the starting line-up, similar to the Blues career of the next man.
Luke Lewis is a must-have each year for Origin, as he brings a toughness and class only someone of his experience can. Lewis’ ability to fit in almost anywhere on a team is a good plus.
Tim Mannah, while not having played Origin since 2011, is one of the competition’s better props, not the kind to wither under the Origin spotlight.
His leadership qualities are great to bring to the side as well as off the bench, and he is yet another long-term Origin option.