STEVE TURNER: ‘Mr Reliable’ McManus a great pick for battling Blues

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The NSW selectors have gone the right way in picking Newcastle winger James McManus for the State of Origin decider on July 17.

McManus rarely gets the wraps he deserves for his work at the end of the Knights’ backline but it’s fantastic that his ultra-consistent form over the past two seasons has been recognised.

He is a brilliant finisher with 16 tries already in the NRL this year, he’s safe in the air defensively, and you have to hunt far and wide to find someone as deadly as this guy. Few, if any, wingers have got the better of him in one-on-one confrontations in 2013.

The Blues will miss the spontaneity that Jarryd Hayne would have brought, but they’ll certainly enjoy having James on board. He is a very tough customer and a ferocious competitor.

Stats show he has made 50 tackle busts this year for the Knights and many of those have been making the hard metres usually expected of the forwards.

I warmly applaud his selection. Newcastle’s ‘Mr Reliable’ certainly won’t let anyone down.

Having said that, I feel for Nathan Merritt who was given his chance in Origin 2 but had one of those games when he probably wished he had stayed in bed.

There was lots of action out on his wing, and for a number of reasons he was found wanting.

When I played for NSW, I was also faced with the proposition of stopping a runaway Greg Inglis. I couldn’t, and I’m still feeling the bruises to this day!

At least Nathan has a blue jumper, that he has so richly deserved with his performances over the years. No one can take that away from him, and the way things are shaping up, he might even collect a premiership ring at the end of the season.

The Blues team contains no real surprises, and that’s the way it should be going into the decider locked at one-all.

I notice that Mitchell Pearce says this will be a do-or-die game for him, and I have to agree.

He has had many chances to pilot NSW to a series win and this shapes as his best one in front of a sell-out crowd on home soil.

The decider will ultimately come down to how the halves perform for both teams.

Pearce and Maloney versus Cronk and Thurston. It’s very much a case of challengers versus the champs.

I’m tipping that the forwards battle will finish even and that it will all come down to the creativity and combination of the halves.

The Queensland duo has been there and done it on so many occasions, but I have faith in our men who have been doing plenty of great things in the NRL for the Roosters.

They will need to go even better than that, and I reckon they can.

Steve Turner is a retired rugby league player currently employed at the Canterbury Bulldogs as the club's content producer. He is a regular at both ABC Grandstand and Fox Sports News. Steve played 161 NRL games for the Panthers, the Storm and the Bulldogs, as well as one game for the NSW Origin team and one game for City Origin. He played in the 2006, 07, 08 and 09 NRL grand finals. Twitter- @SteveTurner84
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