2011 NSW State of Origin team named; expert reaction

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

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    New South Wales State of Origin team 2011 announced

    New South Wales State of Origin team 2011 announced AAP Image/Dean Lewins

    NSW selectors seemed to have learnt some lessons from the past, and, for the most part, have picked in-form players, in position. It sounds like an obvious selection strategy, but it’s certainly not something they have adhered to in recent times.

    Looking for the team for game three?
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    NSW Origin team for second game

    The inclusion of Dugan, Jennings and Soward, amongst others, indicates that NSW recognise that they need to score more points if they are to defeat Queensland. In the past, there have been some negative selections based on defence, but the reality is that the Maroons backline is so potent that no matter how strong a defensive side you select, they’ll still score their share of tries. So instead, why not be positive, and simply try to outscore them?

    It’s a bold strategy, but after losing 5 series in a row, something had to change.

    But whether that is enough to beat a rampant Queensland, motivated to send Darren Lockyer out a winner, remains to be seen…

    Fullback: Josh Dugan
    Whilst the ascension of Dugan to NSW fullback has been mooted for some time, I was still a little surprised to hear confirmation he had replaced Jarryd Hayne. Dugan is a special talent, and the selectors and Ricky Stuart obviously believe that Dugan can replicate his club moments of magic, at Origin level. Considering NSW’s struggle to beat Queensland in recent times, I have to applaud the gamble, even if I was a tad shocked.

    Left Winger: Brett Morris
    Blistering pace, in-form, good size and a great finisher. What else do you want from your Origin winger?

    Right Centre: Mark Gasnier
    Now that he has his ‘rugby league body’ back, ‘Gaz’ has returned to his customary standing amongst the game’s elite centres. He adds an attacking weapon the Blues have sorely lacked. His footwork is outstanding, his defence brilliant, and everyone is looking forward to his battle with Greg Inglis.

    Left Centre: Michael Jennings
    I have to admit to being surprised that Jennings got the nod. His chief talent is scoring tries, but he hasn’t been doing a lot of that this season. Whilst Idris is a natural right centre, he played on the left for Australia, and it wouldn’t have been a shock to see him picked on the left hand side for NSW. But Jennings is a dangerous attacking player, and a specialist left centre, and Ricky made it clear he didn’t want to pick players out of position.

    Right Winger: Akuila Uate
    Booked his spot with a powerhouse display in City/Country. Big, fast and strong, he takes a lot of stopping with his damaging runs. Looks suited to Origin football, and the rookie will enjoy playing outside Gasnier.

    Five Eighth: Jamie Soward
    The most talked about position, and most contentious selection. But as I have said before, he has earned the right to personally answer the question of whether or not he is up to Origin level.

    His defence and attacking skills have been called into question in the past, but both have been excellent of late, especially his new-found willingness to attack the defensive line. Hopefully, the negative field goal tactics from Friday night were just an aberration.

    Halfback: Mitchell Pearce
    Not in great form at club level, but was superb in City/Country. Perhaps he just needs to get away from the crazy house that The Chookpen has become. Along with Soward, needs a big game, because Jarrod Mullen is breathing down his neck.

    Lock: Paul Gallen (c)
    Almost the lone automatic selection in the team. Tough, uncompromising and often tip-toes the line between aggression and foul play. But Gallen is made for Origin football. Hopefully the responsibility of captain will help him control his emotions, because he’ll need to lead by example.

    Second Row: Greg Bird
    Like Gallen, Bird was born to play Origin football, and is one of Ricky Stuart’s favourite players. Hard, strong and always itching for a contest, Bird and Gallen will take it upon themselves to show Queensland that NSW has plenty of passion as well.

    Second Row: Beau Scott
    I think Scott was lucky to be picked. He lacks Origin-type impact in both attack and defence. A solid player, no question, but I believe he’s the product of playing in a good team, rather than being a great player himself. He looked out of his depth last year, but to be fair, that was in the centres, not the second row. Still, you can be sure Queensland would prefer to face Scott rather than, for example, Anthony Watmough.

    Front Row: Kade Snowden
    Will be asked to provide the NSW pack with plenty of go-forward. Don’t underestimate his importance for the Blues, because he can make everyone’s job easier by laying a foundation for the rest of the team and setting the tone for the forward battle.

    Hooker: Michael Ennis
    It was always going to be a tight choice between Farrah and Ennis, but ‘The Menace’ got the nod, and one can only assume that his niggle was as much of a defining selection factor as his dummy-half play. In any case, he’s supremely talented at both.

    Front Row: Jason King
    Bit of a surprise, considering he has some fitness questions marks, but does provide plenty of the grunt needed for a State of Origin encounter. NSW will be counting on him to take the ball up and absorb the expected early onslaught from a fired up Queensland.


    Ben Creagh
    Surprisingly named on the bench, rather than starting. Nonetheless, his damaging runs out wide, and ability to run off Soward, will be a cornerstone of the Blues attack. Has been in great form for the Dragons, but needs to carry that into Origin, where even his biggest fans would have to admit that he has yet to make a name for himself. Well, apart from infamously running away from a fight.

    Trent Merrin
    I actually thought he might be in the starting line-up, instead of King. But perhaps it’s wise to bring him in off the bench. The fire and brimstone early clashes of Origin are no place for a rookie, but when the game settles down, look for the Dragons prop to enter with immediate impact.

    Tim Mannah
    Mannah has been one of the few shining lights in the Parramatta pack, and therefore gets another chance at Origin level. Might see game time earlier than expected, considering Jason King can’t possibly be 100%.

    Dean Young:
    A solid player in good form, who certainly has the toughness required for Origin football. Can play hooker or anywhere in the back row, but it’s debatable whether NSW had the luxury to pick Young on the bench, when a more skilful backline player may have been a better idea.

    Those missing out:

    Jarryd Hayne
    Hayne has probably been the Blues best player over the last two or three series and his absence will raise a few eyebrows. Particularly north of the border, where he may not be liked, but is extremely well respected.

    It’s hard to believe that a team that has lost five series in a row can afford not to pick a player of his talents, but Ricky Stuart hinted that he doesn’t view Hayne as a fullback, yet wouldn’t pick players out of their club position – thus dooming Hayne.

    Robbie Farrah
    With Soward getting the nod at number 6, I thought NSW may need the extra creativity that Farrah provides with the ball in-hand. The selectors thought otherwise, but he must have been very close to getting picked.

    Kurt Gidley
    Perhaps the thought of a less than 100% Gidley was too much of a gamble. Whatever the reason, his ability to run at tired Queensland legs, or interchange for any injury to the backline, would have been useful off the bench.

    Jamal Idris
    Despite his weaknesses, Queensland would have preferred not to have to deal with him. That alone suggests to me that he would have been a worthy selection gamble.

    Tom Leahroyd-Lahrs
    NSW’s best forward last year, and returned to form in the City/Country game. But a slow start to the season has cost him a spot.

    Jarrod Mullen
    Absolutely no truth to the rumours that he hired a hitman to take out Soward and Pearce…

    Read all the info for State of Origin 2011

    More reactions: NSW Blues – Playmakers Overlooked

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • May 15th 2011 @ 6:33pm
      m jones said | May 15th 2011 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

      thankyou nsw, what a souless team of over the hills, used befores and no superstars. haha, no hayne and no idris, Are you mad??, this is all happy smiles for QLD. the only thing you got right was the captain.hahahahaha

      • June 15th 2011 @ 11:32pm
        Glen Holmes said | June 15th 2011 @ 11:32pm | ! Report

        Love your work i live in Queensland But allways Born and Bred N.S.W Kick there arse Again next game Please

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2011 @ 6:44pm
      peeeko said | May 15th 2011 @ 6:44pm | ! Report

      cant understand what you mean by scott lacking “origin type” impact in defense? he is a great defender and what exactly is “origin type”? thought luke lewis woiuld have got a run considering other injured players such as jennings and king got starts

      • May 16th 2011 @ 7:39am
        oikee said | May 16th 2011 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        I agree, Scott is a origin player. The rest of the team looks pretty good. Its left field, could spell trouble for queensland.

        Just like to say good on Uate for his selection, a real winger. 🙂 And Morris.

    • May 15th 2011 @ 6:48pm
      mick soper said | May 15th 2011 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

      What a joke.No Hayne (nsw best last 2 years).No Luke Lewis who can play any position from back row to wing,strong,80 minute player with plenty in attack.Keith Galloway,one of the form forwards in the comp at the moment & Tim Grant,tough & built for origin.Creigh on the bench?Obviously we still don’t get the whole Qld loyalty thing.Does not give you much confidence for NSW to stop the QLd onslaught.

    • Roar Guru

      May 15th 2011 @ 6:53pm
      M1tch said | May 15th 2011 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

      King is very lucky, going with the combo game 3 last year..
      Creagh on bench is strange, he will offer no impact..
      Dugan needs to man up in defence was terrible in 2 occasions last night, however he has great attacking ability.
      Overall its a 8/10
      Tolman must be wondering what more he has to do!

    • Columnist

      May 15th 2011 @ 6:59pm
      Spiro Zavos said | May 15th 2011 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

      Ricky Stuart made an interesting point in the conference announcing the team that at the State of Origin level it is less about game plans by the coach and more about preparing the players to play their best in the fiery pit of the match. This might explain why Mal Meninga, an unsuccessful club coach, has been very successful at the State of Origin level.
      To my mind, Stuart has selected a side that is hard-shouldered in the forwards and has some flair in the backs.
      Is there a strong enough defensive aspect to the backs, though?

      • Roar Guru

        May 15th 2011 @ 7:32pm
        ScottWoodward.me said | May 15th 2011 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

        Lets be fair dinkum, Ricky has been sacked at his last 3 coaching jobs. He is only there because he is mates with the CEO of NSWRL.
        The last time he coached Origin he had a guy called Johns at 7 who coached for him.

        • May 15th 2011 @ 8:48pm
          Jimbo said | May 15th 2011 @ 8:48pm | ! Report

          Couldn’t agree more, Scott. I don’t know where the myth of Ricky Stuart being a good coach came from. He had John Cartwright alongside at the Roosters. I won’t hold Cronulla against him as plenty of better coaches have failed there too, but perhaps most damning was the fact the Harlem Globetrotters of league, the Kangaroos, couldn’t win a world cup under his stewardship…

          • May 16th 2011 @ 9:35am
            PaddyBoy said | May 16th 2011 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            They choked in the final sure, but did you see all the other scorelines from that world cup? The final was the only one where they didn’t score 34+ points from memory (could be wrong).

            • May 16th 2011 @ 12:15pm
              Jimbo said | May 16th 2011 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

              Exactly – they beat up on some very mediocre opposition, and choked in a game where NZ were at $8 to win prior to kickoff IIRC.

    • May 15th 2011 @ 7:01pm
      Damo said | May 15th 2011 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

      What’s the fascination with Scott? He’s horribly overrated!

      Ricky said Hayne has better positions than fullback. If so, he should have been a utility player off the bench. He could cover everwhere. What’s the point of having Young, when Ennis and all the back rowers play 80 minutes?

      Not a bad team, but I would have found room for Idris and Hayne.

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