No room for the top three in Freddy’s New South Wales team

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    The top three New South Wales players in the NRL didn’t make Brad Fittler’s Blues team published in May.

    These are players who will influence the result of a game, based on a presumptive analysis from my system.

    Rank 2018 Influential Players Position
    1 Johnathan Thurston 6 or 7
    2 Cameron Smith 9
    3 Michael Morgan 6 or 7
    4 Jason Taumalolo 13
    5 Tom Trbojevic 1
    6 James Tedesco 1
    7 Anthony Milford 6
    8 Daly Cherry-Evans 7
    9 Matt Moylan 6
    10 Sam Burgess 13

    The output only reveals three players from the state of New South Wales in the top ten – Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco and Matt Moylan – and they were all absent from Freddy’s team published by the Daily Telegraph in May.

    For reference, here is that team.

    Brad Fitler’s NSW team
    1. Josh Dugan, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Jack Bird, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. Latrell Mitchell, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. James Tamou, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Andrew Fifita, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Boyd Cordner, 13. Jake Trbojevic

    Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. Wade Graham, 16. Paul Vaughan, 17. David Klemmer

    The biggest surprise is Josh Dugan at the back in place of Tedesco, who is the incumbent Blues fullback and was arguably Laurie Daley’s most effective player in this year’s Origin series.

    Tom Trbojevic missed Game 1 this year through injury, but he has a similar rating to Tedesco and has the added versatility of being able to play fullback, wing or centre.

    Matt Moylan also had setbacks and his form for new club Cronulla will determine selection, but like Tedesco and Trbojevic, he is a match winner who creates points.

    The thinking behind Fittler’s selection of Dugan was interesting, citing a strong kick return as the primary reason.

    One of the key reasons St George Illawarra have disappointed fans in recent years was because they have been unable to create scoreboard pressure and the highly paid Dugan was at fault with below-par try assists, tries and linebreak assists while playing fullback.

    There is no denying Dugan’s ability, but to play a key spine position, a passing game is essential, and the Dragons opted not to get into a bidding war when the Sharks wanted him.

    There is no comparison when discussing Tom Trbojevic and James Tedesco against Dugan as a fullback. They are both prolific in creating opportunities that lead to points.

    Dugan was outstanding in the Rugby League World Cup when coach Meninga shifted him from his Origin and sometimes club position of right centre to play left centre inside Valentine Holmes. He showed he has a passing game with five try assists, but that form is diluted somewhat against weak opposition.

    (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

    Veteran prop James Tamou was another surprise in the Fittler 17 with recent Kangaroos Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Jordan McLean and starter Aaron Woods overlooked.

    Also, the exciting Latrell Mitchell comes in for Brett Morris, who has since retired from representative rugby league. Mitchell has struggled in defence for the Roosters when playing on the wing and is expected to have opposition from Kangaroo Josh Mansour and Josh Addo-Carr, who posted 23 tries this year for the Storm.

    As usual, the halves pairing will attract most interest and Fittler agreed with Daley and Peter Sterling in selecting Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney.

    New members of the Fittler inner circle are Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Greg Alexander. This is good for Pearce as Johns was a specialist coach at the Roosters and, like Buderus, was a key influencer in him moving to the Knights.

    Also, Alexander has replaced Peter Sterling as selection advisor to the coach and if we are to believe what the Panthers are saying, young halfback sensation Nathan Cleary is not ready for the cauldron of Origin.

    Many considered Dragon Paul Vaughan unlucky to miss out on selection this year and he makes Fittler’s bench along with Panther utility Tyrone Peachey. Also, the controversial Robbie Farah is the hooker in place of Nathan Peats.

    Farah was one of the form players in the RLWC when he moved to halfback for Lebanon and was brilliant in leading them around with young half Mitch Moses, who also will come under Blues consideration.

    Obviously, form in the early rounds will have a major impact on the team for Game 1 at the MCG on June 6, and we can expect a fundamentally different line up to the one selected by Freddy last May after a couple of cuppas with Brandy and the boys.

    Maroon coach Kevin Walter would hope that he doesn’t make too many changes.

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