With Round 7 coming to a close, the all anticipated State of Origin series, is quickly coming into picture.
While Queensland have absolutely dominated over the past ten years, winning nine of ten, New South Wales will look hungry to steal back the shield they held in 2014.
NSW have the distinct advantage, with two home games this year. Games 1 and 3 will be played in NSW, while Game 2 will be taken to the cauldron, Suncorp Stadium.
With so many surprising teams, and some not so many surprising teams, the selection process for both sides, has come strongly into play. There have been a heap of players, deserving of a selection, and from Queensland’s perspective, many players injured and also suspended from selection.
If Origin was to begin today, I would take on the all hard decisions in picking what I think, are the best sides for the opener.
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With so many young guns pushing for selection, Laurie Daley and co. have a tough job on their hands.
In no particular bias or objective criteria, here is how I think NSW would best be suited to beat the Maroons.
1 – Josh Dugan (Dragons)
2 – James Tedesco (Tigers)
3 – Michael Jennings (Eels)
4 – Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
5 – James Roberts (Broncos)
6 – James Maloney (Sharks)
7 – Adam Reynolds (Souths)
8 – Aaron Woods* (Tigers)
9 – Robbie Farah (Tigers)
10 – Aidan Tolman (Bulldogs)
11 – Beau Scott (Eels)
12 – Greg Bird (Titans)
13 – Paul Gallen (c) (Sharks)
14 – Blake Austin/Josh Reynolds
15 – Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
16 – James Tamou (Cowboys)
17 – Bryce Cartwright (Panthers)
If Aaron Woods is ruled out due to injury, David Klemmer would warrant a call up. Brett Morris and Luke Lewis are also not included due to injury.
I think this team offers a lot of youth, with a great mix of experience, also.
The forward pack is strong and versatile, and with players like Tamou, Fifita and Cartwright off the bench, they can really cause headaches for the tiring Queensland pack.
If Brett Morris was fit, I would slot him over Ferguson. With Ferguson, I believe on the wing in Origin would suit his style of play better. His big body will be handy, in metres needed to get out of their own half, and is also a good option in the air for fifth tackle.
The steady head of Jimmy Maloney has spearheaded the Sharks resurgence, hence I believe he deserves his spot. The ever growing Adam Reynolds, deserves a shot.
With Pearce out and Hodkinson not playing so well, this game is the right time to throw him in the cauldron. The newly formed spine could prove dangerous and spark a new light into the Sky Blue jersey
1 – Darius Boyd (Broncos)
2 – Corey Oates (Broncos)
3 – Greg Inglis (Souths)
4 – Dane Gagai (Knights)
5 – Justin O’Neill (Cowboys)
6 – Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys)
7 – Cooper Cronk (Storm)
8 – Matt Scott (Cowboys)
9 – Cameron Smith (c) (Storm)
10 – Nate Myles (Sea Eagles)
11 – Aidan Guerra (Roosters)
12 – Matt Gillett (Broncos)
13 – Corey Parker (Broncos)
14 – Michael Morgan (Cowboys)
15 – Josh McGuire (Broncos)
16 – Sam Thaiday (Broncos)
17 – Josh Papali’i (Raiders)
Not included due to injury or suspension are Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Cameron Munster, Valentine Holmes, Anthony Milford and Dylan Napa.
The selection that will stand out is obviously the fullback choice. As soon as Chambers has gone down, GI ‘must’ be in the centres, to provide somewhat of a formidable centre pairing.
If GI were to play at the back, you would have two brand new centres, playing in their first Origin openers, in enemy territory. That daunting objective made me throw GI into the centres to pair the relatively new Dane Gagai, while moving Darius Boyd to the back.
With that move however, brings in two new wings. I would much rather debutants on the wings, rather than centres.
Morgan beats out Ben Hunt, Ben Barba and Daly Cherry-Evans for the utility option. This is purely on his form and partnership with his Cowboys teammate Thurston.
The selection of Justin O’Neill over his teammate Kyle Feldt is purely based on his versatility and experience in big games. During his time at Melbourne, he was touted a future Maroon wing option, and I think he deserves his shot.
And the winner is?
I think the experience of Queensland will get them over in Game 1. These games typically seem to be a game where you feel the opposition out – therefore I think the ready-made combinations in Queensland will see them through.
Queensland by 2.