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Five of the Blues most talented ball players Jarryd Hayne, Todd Carney, Jarrod Mullen, Jamal Idris and Robbie Farah have been left out of Origin I, as coach Ricky Stuart cements his game plan that will rely on a bomb disposal expert he once sacked.
• NSW State of Origin Team 2011 for Game 1:
1. Josh Dugan, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Mark Gasnier, 4. Michael Jennings, 5. Akuila Uate, 6. Jamie Soward, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Jason King, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Kade Snowden, 11. Beau Scot, 12. Greg Bird, 13. Paul Gallen (C), 14. Ben Creagh, 15. Trent Merrin, 16. Tim Mannah, 17. Dean Young. Coach Ricky Stuart.
• Likely Queensland Team: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Darius Boyd, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Willie Tonga, 5. Jharal Yow Yeh, 6. Darren Lockyer (C), 7. Johnathan Thurston, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. Petero Civoniceva, 11. Sam Thaiday, 12. Nate Myles, 13. Ashley Harrison. Bench: 14. Cooper Cronk, 15. Ben Hannant, 16. Corey Parker, 17. Jacob Lillyman, 18, Dallas Johnson. Coach Mal Meninga
The Blues have selected flyer Michael Jennings over big Jamal Idris or Josh Morris. The Maroons are forced to replace the luckless Hodges on the right side with Willie Tonga, who bagged two tries playing on the left side for the Cowboys last Saturday night.
I applaud the Blues selectors for giving Josh Dugan his chance at fullback, but how can they expect to beat the Maroons when they cannot find a place in the remaining 16 spots for Jarryd Hayne, regarded by most professionals as being in the top five players in the world?
Hayne is so big and athletic that he could play almost any position. He already has experience at fullback, center, wing and pivot and would have no problems slotting in as a running back rower off the bench.
There is no question in my mind that the NSW blue print for success will be to use Jamie Soward’s pin point kicks to score trys from bombs. Soward is a master at putting up a high kick and making it land just before the try line and it is no coincidence that every member in the Blues backline are outstanding in the air.
Jamie Soward would have been licking his chops at the thought of bombing to the Bulldog giant Jamal Idris who is almost unstoppable in a contested jump, but surprisingly he is left out.
Soward will have a feast of riches for possible jumping backs to convert his kicks even without Idris including new fullback Dugan, the exciting wingmen Akuila Uate and Brett Morris and Mark Gasnier, who scored that memorable try off a Soward kick in last year’s Grand Final.
The Blues may well have the best tactical kicker, but the Maroons have the best players in the crucial spine positions of 1, 6,7 and 9. Those tactical positions touch the ball more than anyone else and no team in history has ever been able to boast a better spine than Billy Slater, Darryn Lockyer, Jonathan Thurston and Cam Smith.
• Slater Arguably the best fullback ever to play Rugby League.
• Lockyer A genuine living legend, still in great form.
• Thurston The best player in the world at present
• Smith Arguably the best hooker forward of all time.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart has said that he is trying to build a NSW team “for the future”, yet his two most talented players Todd Carney (24) and Jarryd Hayne (23) were overlooked in the selection room.
It seems to be the popular consensus that Todd Carney cannot be selected as he has been a “bad boy” and Jamie Soward is a clean skin. The fact is that good or bad; Carney played for his club the Roosters on Sunday and realistically is the closest human the Blues have to Thurston in sheer talent.
The folly of this argument is that Soward now appears as the trump card for the Blues, but the fact remains that he cannot do what a switched on Todd Carney can do.
Soward was originally not wanted by Ricky Stuart when he coached him at the Roosters and managed to find greener pastures at the Dragons when Nathan Brown signed him and now Wayne Bennett has made him into his clubs most wanted man.
The biggest challenge for a Soward and Pearce combination is that both prefer to play on the right side of the field abd the Maroons have a proven Lockyer and Thurston who know each other’s game well.
The Blues will use the bad mouthed Mick Ennis as hooker with Dean Young and have not listed Tiger Robbie Farah.
History tells us that the Maroons will score around 24 points and Farah is the standout attacking hooker in NSW. He can also play halfback and pivot and there is a strong argument as to why he could have been used off the bench.
Blues halfback Mitch Pearce commented after playing for City Origin that the service that he received from Farah made a huge difference to how well he played. Clearly the City v Country clash has been a waste of time.
Ennis and Young are up against the best ever in Cam Smith and it is doubtful if Farah being overlooked will upset Maroon coach Mal Meninga.
Co-selector Bozo Fulton, a Manly legend, could only influence prop Jason King to gain selection. It appears that Anthony Watmough has paid the penalty for being a serial pest and disruptive in camp, while Glenn Stewart was overlooked for tough guy Beau Scott, who also is comfortable “baby sitting” Soward in defence. Stewart was not considered an ideal impact player off the bench.
The Maroons are travelling that well they can afford to leave the exciting Ben Barba out although he could have covered more positions than Cooper Cronk who had the support of influential team mates Smith and Slater.
Mal Meninga’s biggest concern is that his champion left center Greg Inglis is passed fit to play. With Israel Folau gone to AFL, Justin Hodges and Brent Tate injured, Queensland have been forced to again use Willie Tonga which will present a likely target for Jamal Idris and Josh Dugan to run at as he is suspect laterally.
The center cupboard is bare if Inglis is not cleared with selectors looking to Bronco babes Jack Reed and Gerard Beale.