The New South Wales Blues have named an (almost) unchanged squad for the third game of the 2017 State of Origin series, meaning the team will likely go through the series with the same 17 players – an impressive feat not achieved by the Blues since 1996.
Despite the disappointing loss in Sydney a few weeks ago, selectors have kept the faith. However, they’ve been forced to call in Jack de Belin as 18th man as Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell face a race against injuries to be for for Game 3.
The Blues should go into the game confident they can win at Suncorp Stadium – because they’ve already done it – but the Maroons will be licking their lips at the thought of yet another series, and the following players will need to be at their best in order to deliver Origin glory to New South Wales.
1. James Tedesco
Wasn’t quite as brilliant in Sydney as he was in Brisbane, but was still very good. He runs the ball back hard, has really improved his defensive positioning, and his support play is elite. Played a key role in Mitchell Pearce’s first half try, and will once again be a key to the Blues’ game plan in attack.
2. Brett Morris
Has been a very consistent Origin performer over his career, and has only added to that reputation in this year’s series. Makes very few mistakes, is extremely reliable in defence (Gagai’s tries were hardly his fault) and relieves his forwards with strong carries early in the tackle count.
3. Josh Dugan
Though he has earned the reputation of being an attacking player, Dugan’s defence has really improved in recent times and has taken centre stage on a number of occasions in this series. Though he’s far from perfect in that regard, he does have a knack for making big plays, and his prevention of a Michael Morgan try in Game 2 is the perfect evidence. Is expected to overcome his cork in time for Game 3.
4. Jarryd Hayne
Hayne had a mixed bag of a game in Sydney. Though he did some impressive things, he equally did a number of stupid things that cost his team dearly. It’s a lazy narrative to say he’s got too much Hollywood in his game after his time in the States, but that doesn’t make it inaccurate. He needs to learn to make the right play, not the flashy and/or selfish play.
5. Blake Ferguson
Had a couple of important runs and big defensive plays, but also made a number of errors, particularly getting caught in No Man’s Land in defence. He needs to concentrate on his mental focus because he can be found out by smart attacking players when he’s out of position, and Queensland have a number of players who fit that description.
6. James Maloney
Maloney is a very good attacking player, remains questionable in defence, and is prone to some very dumb penalties. Look no further than the gifts he gave Queensland early in Game 2 which resulted in the Maroons’ first try. In an understatement for ages, he simply must be smarter, and also can’t go missing like he did in the last 25 minutes in Sydney.
7. Mitchell Pearce
Pearce had a very good first half in Sydney, with a precise kicking game and excellent ball play. He was heavily involved in two of the Blues’ tries and it looked like he was finally going to get his Origin monkey off his back. Unfortunately, when the game was there to be won in the second half, he oscillated between disappearing and being terrible. As halfback, he needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but didn’t.
8. Aaron Woods
I’m not the biggest Aaron Woods fan, but he was pretty good in the second game of the series. He made a couple of big runs, and also pulled off a big hit on Valentine Holmes that earned the Blues possession. However, like many of his teammates, the second half won’t feature on his highlight reel.
9. Nathan Peats
Peats was once again sensational in defence, tackling anything with a hint of Maroon in it. He made 56 tackles and was a blue wall for NSW. In attack, he was a little predictable for the most part, and when he did try something – going to the blindside on the fifth tackle – it was the wrong option. Needs to have a few more darts out of dummy half and make Queensland think about him when he has the ball.
10. Andrew Fifita
After a mammoth game in Brisbane, Fifita was held relatively in check at Homebush. The Queensland forwards had done their homework and did a better job of neutralising the big prop. Though he still got a few offloads away, he was nowhere near as impactful as he’d been in Game 1. The scorecard in the series reads 1-1, but that’s also the score of Fifita versus Maroons pack. It’s not a coincidence.
11. Boyd Cordner (c)
The skipper led by example once again in Game 2 with a tireless effort in attack and defence. However, though it may be a tad harsh, a little more stern leadership wouldn’t have gone astray. Whether it be barking at Hayne for low percentage plays, getting his halves to take control of the game, or even directing his troops towards an injured Johnathan Thurston, sometimes a captain needs to get vocal. Will be hoping to overcome a calf injury in time for the decider.
12. Josh Jackson
Unbelievably won man-of-the-match in a losing side, and to be honest, it was a bit of a farce. Having said that, he unquestionably had a very good game, tackling with all his might and terrorising the Maroons with his runs out wide. Will be asked to provide more of the same in Game 3.
13. Tyson Frizell
Frizell targeted Thurston and got his man a few times. Other than that, the Dragons forward was a little quiet, and didn’t return to the field after being replaced around the 60-minute mark. Will no doubt look to get more involved in the decider, although his rib cartilage injury could scupper that plan.
14. David Klemmer
The Bulldogs forward made a whopping 170 metres in Game 2 and consistently carried the ball back with purpose and intent. He was among the Blues’ best, and his intensity and passion will once again be called upon from the bench next Wednesday night. Though he’s been good in a bench role, serious consideration should be given to starting him.
15. Wade Graham
Was absolutely outstanding in Brisbane, and borderline poor in Sydney. What a difference a game can make, huh? His kicking game gives the Blues a very interesting weapon in attack, but Graham needs to balance his silky smooth skills with some intelligent play. He made some bad reads in defence and gave away a crucial penalty in Game 2, and must tighten up his game if the Blues want to win the series.
16. Jake Trbojevic
Now playing his in his third Origin game – and set to play 20-odd more in his career – Trbojevic looks very comfortable at this level. He was very solid on debut and was close to the best player on the park in his second game, with damaging runs and massive tackles. Forget the future, he’s a star now.
17. Jack Bird
Though he’s yet to bust out and show his true class at Origin level, he’s thus far been the perfect utility player, filling in for injured players in both games of the series. It can’t be easy to prepare for a game, not knowing exactly when or how you’ll be used, but Bird has been solid without being spectacular.
18th man: Jack de Belin
Despite a calf injury of his own, the Dragons forward provides cover for a number of injury concerns for the Blues, most specifically for club teammate Tyson Frizell. De Belin has flirted around the Blues team for a little while now, and if given an opportunity, won’t let anyone down, bringing some toughness to the middle of the park.