During the week someone challenged me to write my own Roar article, so I thought I’d tackle the subject of NSW Origin selection.
Like many, I think it’s time for a generational change. What I think NSW needs to desperately avoid is blooding a whole bunch of Origin rookies in key positions at once.
The damage that could be done by throwing James Tedesco, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer and Nathan Peats into the maw of the Queensland juggernaut is simply not worth the risk. Particularly as none of these players have big game experience.
Who takes control of the team when the heat is on?
More State of Origin:
» State of Origin news
» State of Origin fixtures and kickoff time
» State of Origin teams
» James Tedesco should be Australia’s fullback
» Hey Laurie, don’t commit the same mistakes as those before you
Queensland has a team of all-time greats but whether through luck or design they phased these players into the team.
Billy Slater had two Origin campaigns, one on the wing and one on the bench before he became the regular fullback in 2009. By then he had played in three grand finals. Slater served his apprenticeship behind guys like Clinton Schifcofske and Rhys Wesser.
Greg Inglis played his first two Origin series on the wing behind Justin Hodges and Steve Bell. He didn’t start in the centres until 2008 by which stage he had won a grand final and a Churchill Medal as a five-eighth.
Cooper Cronk spent two full campaigns playing as a utility off the bench. Michael Morgan will do the same this season.
This is the model that I think NSW need to adopt. Phase players into the team, particularly players in key positions (i.e. the spine). Blooding a brand new 1, 6, 7 and 9 at the same time is a mistake.
1. Josh Dugan
Dugan is the incumbent fullback, the reigning Blues player of the series award and has been busting his backside for the hapless and hopeless Dragons.
In short, he’s done nothing to play himself out of an Origin jersey. While his limited ball playing is noted, he gets sets off to a tremendous start with his strong kick returns.
2. James Tedesco
Tedesco’s form has been irresistible over the past three years. He is arguably the form fullback of the competition. So why is he on the wing?
Tedesco has no semi-final or Origin experience and plays in a key position. I would have Dugan playing fullback in defence and have him swap with Tedesco as the team gets over the halfway line to take advantage of his superior ball playing and general attacking skills.
Tedesco also gets a feel for Origin prior to filling a key position like fullback.
3. Michael Jennings
Has a lot of critics but I think he always stands up at Origin time and has been one of NSW’s most consistent performers over the past three to four years. Has scored some great broken field tries.
4. Josh Morris
Has done a great job marking up on Inglis over the past three seasons and like Jennings has been one of the Blues’ best and most consistent. With Inglis likely to be playing in the centres again for Queensland I wouldn’t want anyone else marking up on him.
5. Josh Mansour
Dugan, Mansour, Tedesco would get the Blues sets off to such a strong start. NSW have always done well with big wingers – think Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney and the Eric Grothes. He eats up the metres and seems to have improved his error rate
6. Josh Reynolds
Regular Roarers know I’m a big Reynolds fan but I really don’t think there’s anyone better for the job. He’s the only five-eighth in the NRL with an Origin series win under his belt.
So far this season he has his mind right with no ‘brain explosions’. He’s very good at drawing the outside defender and creating space for his players. See the Morris try in Origin 1 2014. He’s also an effort on effort player.
7. Adam Reynolds
Everything Aidan Sezer did last year, Reynolds has been doing for four or five. He’s a strong front line defender, has a great long kicking game and passing game and he’s got the best short kicking game in the NRL. Also has big game experience.
Injuries and form slumps have kept him out up to now but he absolutely has to be the first cab off the rank in 2016.
8. Andrew Fifita
His NRL form is irresistible so far this year. His inclusion is a no brainer. I think he’s better starting than off the bench as he seems to get into the pace of the game a bit quicker. The injury to Aaron Woods has guaranteed him a starting spot.
9. Michael Ennis or Robbie Farah
Hooker is the toughest position in the team to fill. Ideally I wouldn’t have either Ennis or Farah but for mine no one from the next generation has stood up and demanded selection. Peats, Mitch Rein, Michael Lichaa and Cam McInnes may all one day be Origin players but none have shown they are ready yet.
Ennis has his nose in front of Farah on form.
10. James Tamou
Tamou is in career-best form and still only 27.
11. Beau Scott
I thought he was washed up and past it last year. This year his hunger and anger have returned and he’s one of the form backrowers of the competition.
12. Josh Jackson
Blooded last year and will be better for the experience. Can play 80 minutes if required and does so much of what Wayne Bennett calls the one-percenters. Takes the tough yards, makes the desperate cover tackle and generally works his butt off.
He can also ball play if required.
13. Paul Gallen
History is being re-written unkindly about Gallen with many seemingly blaming him for NSW’s losses over the past decade. Sure, he’s been a constant figure but he’s been a colossus for the Blues and their beatings would have been much worse without him. Having said that, I’d definitely keep him on a tight rein in the Queensland red zone.
14. David Klemmer
Klemmer hasn’t been too consistent this year but is improving and coming into form at the right time. Had a big impact on debut last year and should build on that again.
15. Paul Vaughan
With Woods out, I’d bring Vaughan in. I love the way he goes about his work, he’s an old-school, raw-boned, country front rower.
16. Bryce Cartwright
NSW have a wealth of 80 minute backrowers – but then they pick six of them in the squad, diluting their impact. It’s great to be able to replace Gallen with Greg Bird or Ryan Hoffman with Luke Lewis but they just offer more of the same.
Cartwright offers something a bit different off the bench in attack and allows Daley to have a Plan B. That’s assuming he has a Plan A figured out.
17. Wade Graham / Boyd Cordner
Ideally I’d have Cordner in the 17 but it’s unclear whether he’ll have enough time on the paddock after his return from injury. Graham has been in great form for three or four years now and has been in the mix every season. I really respect how he can roll his sleeves up and get into the tough stuff but also has the nice little pieces of skill that come from starting your NRL career as a 5/8.
Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer
I’m surprised at the hype around these guys. Austin was a bits and pieces utility who couldn’t nail down a starting spot at the Panthers or Tigers (neither of whom were shooting the lights out at the time). He had two thirds of a great season last year but is badly out of form so far this year.
Sezer is very talented and is playing well, but I don’t know what he brings to the team that Reynolds doesn’t.
I’d be concerned at him marking up on Inglis if he were to replace Morris and it’s pretty much a like for like swap with Jennings. He’s building into good form this year after a bumpy start but overall he’s another who has been around for a while now and struggled for consistency.
Greg Bird / Luke Lewis / Ryan Hoffman
All were under consideration but some new forwards have already been blooded into the team, it seems a step backwards to being these guys back. Greg Bird in particular has been in good form this season
For mine Dugan and Tedesco are simply better options at fullback. I can’t believe all the calls to make a bloke who has not played a single NRL game at six and has never had to defend in the front line the State of Origin five-eighth.