My Blues team for State of Origin 2017

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    A couple of weeks ago I picked my Queensland team for State of Origin I to be played at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday the 31st of May. Got some interesting feedback too.

    Now it is time to pick my NSW team for the same game. We have seen eight rounds of footy and the candidates who can and will be picked have had enough opportunity to show coach Laurie Daley what they are capable of. Some may need a little more time.

    I cannot stress how important the winning of Game I has become for the overall result of the series. Since 1982 there have been 35 three-game series contested and only seven times has the team that lost the first game gone on to win the series (in 1999 and 2002 the team winning the first game went on to draw the series).

    This year there are two games at Suncorp Stadium. When we understand how important winning Game I is to the overall series result, we know then that NSW have to pick players who will handle the cauldron-like atmosphere that ground presents if they are to be any chance this year.

    With all of these things in mind, here is my team to go into battle for NSW against Queensland Game I 2017.

    1. James Tedseco
    Picks himself. One game for NSW, one win. Whichever metric you use this year to judge players, especially fullbacks, Teddy is top or near the top. Running metres (2nd) line break assists (4th) hit-ups (3rd) and tackle breaks (1st, and comfortably so). And he has been doing it for a number of years now. No wonder Tigers fans are devastated to see him go.

    Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco

    2. Brett Morris
    Experience counts and Morris has it in spades. Eighteen test matches and 12 Origins, a big body and still the most likely looking attacking player for the Bulldogs – Morris on the left wing gives me confidence.

    3. Jarryd Hayne
    Hayne is a big-match player that will not just survive in the Origin arena, but actually thrive. Playing centre means he can conserve energy if need be and then pick the moments for his involvement. A better option than Michael Jennings because of what he can create for players around him. Can you imagine the nightmares he will give Queensland in their team meetings in the lead up to the game?

    4. Josh Dugan
    No doubt Dugan is considered a centre at this level, and has done a good job of it at state and international level. Has played fullback six times for NSW and centre on only three occasions but in six Tests has played centre in five of them. He’s very safe, defence oriented and gives versatility if anything happens to Tedesco.

    5. Tom Trbojevic
    Was I just talking about versatility? Play-anywhere Turbo Tom’s stats rival those of Tedesco – equal second most line breaks, second in number of hit ups and most running metres with the second highest average running metres. Tom’s height on the wing gives the NSW kickers a target as well. No experience at Origin level but you get the sense the guy who played NRL at 18 will handle that arena.

    6. Matt Moylan
    My first left field selection of the team, for the left half position. I know his club form has been down this year but hear me out. Moylan played well in his three games last year but had his best game in the halves in Game III, the game New South Wales won. The captaincy issue won’t be a problem for him and you think he will relish the opportunity to get into an environment where he is just one of the boys again.

    7. Adam Reynolds
    Two games for two losses last year doesn’t read well. But if there is one area where Queensland have been better than NSW over the last ten years, it’s the way they finish their sets. Reynolds is the best kicking option for the Blues in the halves and therefore has to be there. He also kicks goals at 95 per cent this year.

    8. Andrew Fifita
    The best front-rower in the world at the moment. The stats back it up. The eye backs it up too. He has started from the bench for all of his seven Origin games, but New South Wales need to get him on the paddock from kick off. He will be a target of the Queensland team to bait him into penalties but I get the sense there is a more mature Fifita on the field this year.

    Andrew Fifita of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks celebrates

    9. Robbie Farah
    This is another of those agonising decisions that left me going with experience. Farah will be the second-most experienced player behind Hayne, although his form for Souths has been solid without being spectacular. The question remains – who can you pick in front of him that you are more confident in doing the job than Robbie?

    10. David Klemmer
    Another with experience (six games) and has certainly not been over awed by the occasion. In middling team performances from the Bulldogs this year, Klemmer has been a shining light averaging big metres (161) per game.

    11. Boyd Cordner
    The first forward picked, I would make Boyd captain of the side. He plays 80 minutes on the left edge and also has the capacity to play in the middle if needed. Is revered by teammates at club level for his single-mindedness and resilience – qualities you need in Origin.

    12. Tyson Frizell
    Frizell played two games for NSW last year, one in the middle and one on the edge. That gives an insight into the versatility of this hugely athletic player. His hard edge running will be a weapon that Reynolds can go to on the right side.

    13. Jake Trbojevic
    Jake Trbojevic has a Test match under his belt but no Origin experience. Like his brother, Tom, you again get the sense he can handle the arena. He’s a middle forward who can play 80 minutes (he probably won’t have to though), a ruthless defender and is clever with the ball – there’s not much more you could ask for really.

    14. Mitchell Pearce
    About September last year, Paul, a friend of mine, sent me the winning team from New South Wales from 1996. Andrew Johns played hooker in all three games. Geoff Toovey was the halfback. He asked why Mitchell Pearce couldn’t play hooker for NSW? Throwing the Roosters No.7 in for an entire 80 minutes seems risky, but having him as your 14th man doesn’t – he covers the halves, he’s a strong defender and is good out of dummy half. This just might work Paul!

    Mitchell Pearce Sydney Roosters

    15. Aaron Woods
    Another experienced head at this level for the Blues. Woods’ output at club and representative level has always been acceptable, but it is one of the areas that masks how it is done. Dare I say it, but he needs more grunt in his work. Woods was outstanding for the Tigers last week and gave everyone a reminder of his capabilities.

    16. Junior Paulo
    Paulo is a risk but one I’m prepared to take. His carries are so strong and he bends the line every time he runs. I get the feeling Queensland would prefer him not to be there. Given the middle forwards I’ve already picked are capable of playing big minutes anyway, he may not get much game time which could see some serious output for the minutes that he is on the park.

    17. Ryan James
    I am such a fan of James. His output is always strong, he could play on an edge if required and the fact that he has been made captain of his club side works in his favour. The penalties that he gives away need to come down but apart from that he is Origin ready.

    The unlucky players? Wade Graham tops this list. He is playing better than last year when he made his Origin debut, but that was in the absence of Cordner.

    James Maloney is also unlucky but missed tackles and penalties conceded work against him.

    Another Sharks Premiership-winner, Jack Bird, is also unlucky. If his dummy half work was better than he would be a shoe-in, but it isn’t and it needs to be perfect for when Farah is off the field.

    Josh Jackson also very unlucky but he is an edge player and Frizell has the jump on him there.

    The lucky players? The 17 named above… because they will get the chance to win Game I for NSW this year and ensure a win for the Blues!

    Jimmy Smith
    Jimmy Smith

    A well-known and respected NRL commentator, Jimmy Smith played professional rugby league in an 11-year career that included stints in both the NRL with the Roosters, Western Suburbs and South Sydney, and England's Super League with Salford. He earned over 150 first grade caps before hanging up the boots and switching to the commentary box. You can find him on Twitter @ThatJimmySmith.

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