For most of his 24 Origin appearances, Paul Gallen was the NSW spearhead, doing the hard yards in possession.
Come Wednesday week it will be Andrew Fifita who last night turned in a blinder for the Sharks to turn a 14-0 half time deficit against the Cowboys into an outstanding 18-14 success at Shark Park.
Fifita was superb, he’s been getting more destructive every week as Queensland will soon find out.
It was a spine-tingling fightback worthy of the reigning premiers.
Fifita is one of only four automatic picks in my NSW Origin squad, alongside James Tedesco, James Maloney, and Boyd Cordner, the new captain.
Only four automatics out of 17 proves how many deserved hopefuls are at coach Laurie Daley’s disposal.
Tedesco will welcome a return to playing among the elite, rather than the ragged Tigers, so expect a match-winning performance from the fullback.
Maloney has no peer in the No.6 jersey, while his goal-kicking is worthy of selection alone, and Cordner has proved as the Roosters co-captain he’s ready to take over from Gallen.
Then it gets interesting.
The tricky selection is what to do with Jarryd Hayne who will always be a genuine Origin competitor – centre or wing?
That decision was easy to make when I selected the express speed merchants in the centres – Michael Jennings and James Roberts – has there ever been a faster centre combination at Origin level?
That meant Hayne, who must be there, will be on the wing with Blake Ferguson.
It’s hard to leave Jack Bird and Matt Moylan out of the starting line-up, both would do NSW proud, but they can’t compete with the speed of Jennings and Roberts.
That leaves halfback and I was very tempted to select Adam Reynolds over Mitchell Pearce.
Reynolds’ goal-kicking would be handy if Maloney had a rare off day, and his territory kicking is superior to Pearce,
But Pearce has turned his life around and very much instrumental in the Rooster revival.
He’s also had plenty of experience playing alongside Maloney before he moved to the Sharks.
So for Origin 1, Pearce gets the nod on the understanding it’s his last chance to fire at this level with Reynolds kicking his door down,
Up front, the big battle for the hooking job rests with incumbent Robbie Farah, Nathan Peats, and Peter Wallace.
It was interesting to see two hooking legends in Max Krilich and Benny Elias went for Farah.
But with respect, the way Peats competed with Cameron Smith in the Titans shock win over the Melbourne Storm put Peats at the top of the class.
With Fifita locked in, the other prop position rests with Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, James Tamou, Paul Vaughan, with Woods my pick.
He, like Tigers teammate Tedesco, will relish being back among the elite.
With Cordner locked in there are many contenders to partner him in the second row – Josh Jackson, Wade Graham, Trent Merrin, Jake Trbojevic, Tyson Frizell, and Klemmer – all quality performers.
I’ve selected Graham in a photo finish with Jackson, who can fill the lock position just as well – both deserve starting line-up status.
That leaves the bench with Bird, Moyland, Klemmer, and Trbojevic.
My NSW team for Origin 1
James Tedesco, Blake Ferguson, Michael Jennings, James Roberts, Jarryd Hayne, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Andrew Fifita, Nathan Peats, Aaron Woods, Boyd Cordner (c), Wade Graham, and Josh Jackson.
Bench: Jack Bird, Matt Moylan, David Klemmer, and Jake Trbojevic.