Just one month out, the NSW Origin puzzle is crystal clear

Tim Gore Columnist

By Tim Gore, Tim Gore is a Roar Expert

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    With just three rounds to go until the teams for State of Origin 1 are named, the front-runners for the NSW 17 are standing out.

    The Blues have lost 12 of the last 13 series and things have to change.

    Under new coach Brad Fittler, there is almost certainly going to be changes – he has said as much.

    However, while there have been suggestions of sweeping changes to the side that took the field in 2017, that would be as foolhardy as making no changes at all.

    So who from last year won’t feature in 2018?

    Firstly, the players who are not available.

    Andrew Fifita has declared his allegiance to Tonga and will no longer make himself available for NSW selection. Given his 2018 averages of 18 runs, 132 metres and 3.5 tackle breaks, his absence isn’t ideal. However, absent he will be.

    Brett Morris has put his hand down for representative selection, Jarryd Hayne is injured – and would not have been selected anyway – Mitchell Pearce is out for the season, while Nathan Peats is injured and would be unlikely to be picked.

    Mitchell Pearce NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    Then there are the players who won’t be selected.

    Aaron Woods has had his go. His impact is limited, and while he may get chosen on the basis of experience, I don’t think he should.

    Blake Ferguson is unlikely to get a recall following the poor press he garnered last series, mixed with his average form so far this year, while the form of his challengers is very good.

    As for Jack Bird, his comeback from injury has been mediocre. He’s played more positions at the Broncos than seen in the Kama Sutra and failed to fire in any of them.

    So that is eight of the 17 players who played all three games in 2017 who won’t be there this year.

    So who will be?


    10. Paul Vaughan
    The Italian Stallion’s form has been too good for too long for the Dragon not to get his go. The majority of his runs make eight metres or more and he misses less than a single tackle a game.

    9. Cameron McInnes
    This is the most contested position in the side, with Damien Cook red hot for the Rabbitohs.

    They’ll go with Cook if they want an attacking dummy half, but I think they’ll go with McInnes because of the sheer number of Dragons in the side, and because he is the better defender.

    He is capable of 70 tackles a game. He is tackling stupid. He’d tackle his grandma into the grandstand concrete. That is what is required in the Origin cauldron.

    8. David Klemmer
    People have a go at Klemmer because he doesn’t offload much, but when you are a monstrous unit who terrorises defences, do you really need to offload?

    I mean, I guess it’s nice, but it’s not essential.

    Klemmer has the highest average metres gained in the NRL this year with 169 a game. That’ll do me.

    David Klemmer of the Bulldogs is tackled by Boyd Cordner

    11. Josh Jackson
    I know the Bulldogs have been struggling, but this bloke ain’t the problem. He’d be picked in every NRL side – Queensland would pick him if they could.

    A superb defender and leader. Made for Origin.

    12. Boyd Cordner (c)
    Will be captain again and better for the experience of 2017. He’s a superb player.

    13. Jake Trbojevic
    The best lock forward since Brad Clyde, although he’s not the same sort. He’s mobile, has great hands, hits the line hard and tackles really well. OK, that pretty much describes Clyde, too.

    Barring injury, he’ll be in the NSW number 13 for years to come.


    7. Nathan Cleary
    He’s the best young halfback prospect since Johnathan Thurston burst onto the scene. If he’s fit he must be the NSW No.7.

    6. James Maloney
    I know he’s been part of many losing series, but he’s just so good. His form and leadership with the Panthers this season has more than justified the Moylan trade – if young Matt’s indifferent form hadn’t already.

    If Cleary is still injured, Jimmy will play 7 and Blake Green will come into the 6 jersey.

    James Maloney NSW Blues State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017 tall


    5. Josh Addo-Carr
    How can you ignore the form of the Fox? If you want to win an Origin series you must score points. Addo-Carr has shown in the last two years that he is not just a finisher, he’s also a spark. Give him a run.

    4. Josh Dugan
    I’m not the biggest fan of this bloke as a human and if I could muster a case to leave him out of this side, I would.

    I can’t. His rep form is excellent. While his Lennox Head drinking partner won’t be with him, I can’t see Freddie leaving Dugan out.

    3. Euan Aitken
    We all knew this guy was a talent when he first turned up but this season he has justified the hype.

    He’s tough as nails in defence and hits the line hard, with good pace. His Dragons form has been superb.

    2. Tom Trbojevic
    It’s time for Tommy Turbo to come into the side. He is fast, elusive, good in defence and awesome in attack. At 6’4 he’s pretty good in an aerial contest too.

    Let him play.

    1. James Tedesco
    Yes, I know his Roosters form has been patchy at best. However, this is Origin – he’ll step up.

    He is a superb attacking weapon and he’s been in the cauldron before. He must play in the No.1.



    14. Tyson Frizzell
    He has been superb in sky blue. He has been superb in the Red V. He can play anywhere in the pack and excel – you could probably play him in the centres at a pinch. Could also be picked at 11, 12 or 13 too.

    Must be in the side.

    15. Ryan James
    I know this selection will be contentious, however this bloke gives 100 per cent, can play 80 minutes and in every pack position but hooker.

    Plus, coming from just south of the Tweed, his animosity towards Queenslanders is heightened. He wants to beat the Cane Toads bad. Give him that chance.

    16. Jack De Belin
    He’s been coming for a while now but something always held him back – and that whale-spout haircut wasn’t great either.

    Jack’s ready now.

    17. Wade Graham
    If he’s fit, the perpetually smiling second rower from the Shire needs to be picked. He hasn’t put a foot wrong at rep level and he’s a real competitor.

    If Graham isn’t fit, I’d love to see Jack Wighton get a go. Like Euan Aitken, just harder in defence, Wighton can cover the whole back five and could play in the back row if necessary.

    The unlucky ones

    • Nic Cotric
    • Angus Crichton
    • Damien Cook
    • Latrell Mitchell
    • Reagan Campbell-Gillard
    • Tariq Sims

    Their time will come.

    I reckon this side will win the 2018 Origin series.

    Tim Gore
    Tim Gore

    Tim has been an NRL statistician for ABC Radio Grandstand since 1999, primarily as part of their Canberra coverage. Tim has loved rugby league since Sterlo was a kid with lots of hair but was cursed with having no personal sporting ability whatsoever. He couldn't take a hit in footy, was a third division soccer player making up numbers, plays off 41 in golf and is possibly the world's worst cricketer ever. He has always been good at arguing the point though and he has a great memory of what happened. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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    The Crowd Says (213)

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:05am
      Off The Bench said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Fair squad but no Tariq Sims??? That fella is a major reason why the Dragons are winning. He deadset has to be in there somewhere and I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2018 @ 7:26am
        Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Look, I love Tariq. Have for years. This is his most consistent season for years though. Who would you leave out?

        • Roar Rookie

          May 10th 2018 @ 7:46am
          Don said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

          I’d leave out anyone who went missing in game 3 last year.
          That means no Woods, Frizell, Maloney or Dugan – 3 from the guys you’ve picked Tim.

          And if Fittler needs any convincing, just watch how some of those guys not only went MIA, they crumbled under the pump.

          Jackson, Klemmer and Cordner had a dig and deserve another shot.

          Woods, Fifita and Frizell K9’ed it.

          • Columnist

            May 10th 2018 @ 8:52am
            Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

            I’m not leaving out Frizzell

            • May 10th 2018 @ 9:40am
              ken gargett said | May 10th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

              tim, looking at it from the other perspective – as a queenslander – i really hope they do leave out frizzell. can’t believe they will.
              i fear that we may show loyalty to a few of the older players (eg boyd) who really should not be there and that your blokes should be able to win the first game. i can’t see us pulling off the comeback this time no matter who we pick. but i have been wrong on that before.

              • Roar Guru

                May 10th 2018 @ 2:04pm
                Mango Jack said | May 10th 2018 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

                I hear this from Qld-ers every year. Flattering to deceive!

          • May 10th 2018 @ 8:53am
            I miss the force said | May 10th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

            Lucky you aren’t in charge

            • Columnist

              May 10th 2018 @ 10:16am
              Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

              I am not in charge.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 10th 2018 @ 3:56pm
                Don said | May 10th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

                I think that might be aimed at me.
                Leaving out Frizell is contentious but I’d argue his form at the same time last year was just as good yet he seemed to drift in and out of the Origin games with no where near the impact he has in NRL games.

          • May 10th 2018 @ 4:16pm
            Tom said | May 10th 2018 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            Leave out Maloney? You must be joking…

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:13am
      Simon said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:13am | ! Report

      Seems like every year NSW have an over abundance of back rowers, if only we could trade that for an over abundance of wins

      • May 10th 2018 @ 12:04pm
        Don said | May 10th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

        Give this man a cookie. Best comment on The Roar!

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:17am
      Brett the Manly fan said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:17am | ! Report

      I also agree with Off The Bench, Tariq sims should be there in place of Wade, far and away a more agressive player who will torment the QLD halves and will hit the line hard.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2018 @ 7:27am
        Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

        The issue is you need someone who can cover the backs too. Graham can.

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:22am
      zenn said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      Your selections seem to be based on reputation rather than form.

      The outstanding forward for the Dragons has been Tariq Simms. The starting back row should be Sims, de Belin and Frizzel. RCG must be in the squad.

      Cordner is not in good form. Mitchell is playing far better football than Dugan.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2018 @ 7:29am
        Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        No way the captain is getting dropped. And Latrell is a talent no question but experience at rep level counts and Dugan has it.

        • Roar Guru

          May 10th 2018 @ 4:40pm
          jeznez said | May 10th 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

          Dugan was the one name you popped up that rubbed me wrong. Was hugely unimpressed with him in the centres last year.

          Not sure Mitchell is the answer but keen to see someone else have a crack there.

      • May 10th 2018 @ 7:52am
        mushi said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        Mitchell still gives up a few clangers at club level and seemingly is still a better athlete than footballer, he’s young though and hopefully will get “it” but do the blues ahve the team to cover for the couple of clangers?

        • Columnist

          May 10th 2018 @ 8:53am
          Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          I’ve got no doubt that Mitchell will get there. Just needs to drop a few brain explosions first.

          • May 10th 2018 @ 10:52am
            Jarryd said | May 10th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

            Yet you have Tom Turbo in the side? He’s been ordinary all year, diabolical last week.

            • May 10th 2018 @ 3:15pm
              mushi said | May 10th 2018 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

              Playing terrible =/= brain explosions.

              Brain explosions are terible ideas that relaly had very little hope of turning into something good.

              Tom jsut played like a bust rear end, he was trying to do the right thing (like catch the ball and pass to other players) but didn’t pull it off.

              Some of Mitchell’s favourties are when he gets into space he seems to think it is score or nothing regardless of the tackle count. He often runs away from his support or throws a speculative pass (often whilst being tackled) when just relasiing the try isn’t on this tackle and moving into better field psotion would result in a try or a penalty. That’s without going into his defensive reads at times…

              They are things he can (hopefully) learn but right now I’m not sure an origin coach wants to roll the dice he learns them in camp

          • May 10th 2018 @ 6:10pm
            nerval said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

            Here we go again with the narrative surrounding Latrell Mitchell and his brain explosions!

            At the risk of turning into a cut-price version of David Lord and his obsession with Ken Irvine – who is behind Brian Bevan in every category by the way – I feel compelled to come to this player’s defence. The only brain explosions being committed are by Mitchell’s Roosters’ team-mates who simply don’t give him enough ball.

            And why are this young man’s odd misjudgements always being referred to as “brain explosions?” I’m suspicious of this. Are you intimating he’s not as academically gifted as Tommy T, a player whose myriad misjudgements are never referred to in this way?

            Oh, and as a Dragons fan, I’m pleased for Aitken, but there is absolutely no way that he deserves the right centre spot ahead of Roberts. Inglis may well tear either of then apart but, nonetheless, Roberts is a blazing talent whose body of work is superior to Aitken’s. He deserves a shot.

            • May 10th 2018 @ 7:48pm
              Gray-Hand said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

              I’m sure there is no chance that NSW’s preparation will be disrupted by a drunken Roberts incident. None at all. They should definitely pick him. Yes please.

              • May 10th 2018 @ 8:10pm
                nerval said | May 10th 2018 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

                There is a chance of that, Grey-Hand and if that is one of the criteria used for his non-selection, that’s fine – as long as this is applied to other players who are under consideration. Players who have already “disrupted” preparations by one “incident” or another. Players such as Dugan and Ferguson…

            • May 10th 2018 @ 8:56pm
              Mushi said | May 10th 2018 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

              Nerval if your getting down to arguing semantics on a colloquial term then it’s a tacit admission you have no argument.

              • May 11th 2018 @ 8:01am
                nerval said | May 11th 2018 @ 8:01am | ! Report

                Mushi, why is this colloquialism never used to refer to the likes of Tommy T? I find it odd, even if you don’t.

                Why can’t we accept that Mitchell, at the ripe old age of just 20, is not yet a perfect footballer and accept instead his manifest talents?

      • May 11th 2018 @ 6:47am
        Richard POWELL said | May 11th 2018 @ 6:47am | ! Report

        Yep. I agree with all of that. I’d leave Wade Graham out; let him get over his injuries. Sims before Frizell, who, I agree went MIA at times last year. If you want an honest worker who makes metres, tackles and can play in the backs, what about Isiah Yeo. And, definitely Lattrell Mitchell, leaving Dugan out. I think Tedesco has to show me some brilliance this year before I’d consider him. I’d have Gutho every day of the week before Teddy.Pick the team on form, not reputations.I notice in the comment below you use the word “experience” with Dugan. Form is more important. NSW have gone that way before – it doesn’t work. Still, very good article Tim.

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:35am
      AJL. said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      Graham gave away several penalties in Origin 2017 as I recall. And came up with a poor missed tackle for Qld to score the try that got them back into game 2. Hardly “hasn’t put a foot wrong at rep level”.
      Selecting James over the Penrith Pornstache is an interesting call, but James is making more metres and more tackles than RCG in 2018. His big problem is conceding penalties.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2018 @ 7:30am
        Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

        His last rep form was for Australia and it was pretty good.
        Sure, his 2017 SOO had some errors but he wasn’t solely to blame for the losses.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 10th 2018 @ 7:50am
          Don said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

          Graham was poor in his chances last year Tim.
          Undisciplined giving away penalties trying to play the tough guy. Also recall a bad kick option or 2 when he clearly wasn’t supposed to be kicking.

        • May 10th 2018 @ 9:48am
          Matt said | May 10th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Tim, go back and watch the last two games of last year’s series. Graham gave away penalties at crucial times throughout both games. He can get away with giving those penalties away at club level because the Sharks are a good team. At Origin level you can’t. He just doesn’t have the mental fortitude at Origin level to not take the harder path and tough it out. For Australia he doesn’t give these penalties away because there isn’t as much pressure. Graham is the first player not picked for me from last year’s squad followed by Woods and Jackson. I know it’s tough for Jackson. But we can’t have two backrowers in the team that are out of form. So Frizzell goes into the starting team and Campbell-Gillard comes into the team. Also I have Cotric in my team. He is made for Origin. He is a 10 year Origin player for me. Big, strong and does the tough stuff coming out of trouble. Tedesco goes out and Turbo drops down to fullback. NSW need a fullback who can pass and Turbo has a better passing game than Tedesco.

          • Columnist

            May 10th 2018 @ 10:18am
            Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

            I love Nic Cotric. I’d love him to get picked. And I think Tommy Turbo is unreal. One of my favourite players who don’t wear lime green – along with his brother. But ease him in on the wing.

            • May 10th 2018 @ 2:13pm
              Matt said | May 10th 2018 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

              I just think that it’s either Tedesco or Turbo at fullback. I know Turbo has played wing before, but I would prefer a specialist winger in the side. That’s why I have gone for Cotric. The fact he has not suffered 2nd year syndrome and is one of the better players for the raiders each week this year either has convinced me that he is class.

      • May 10th 2018 @ 7:49pm
        Raugeee said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:49pm | ! Report

        I agree. Graham raked the ball on the 3rd tackle in the 74th min of Origin 2. QLD were trailing 16-12 and 15m out from there own line. It was a low percentage play. From the ensuing penalty QLD attacked the Blues line, got a repeat set – and well, Morgan’s flick to Gagai is now part of legend.

    • May 10th 2018 @ 6:41am
      DLKN said | May 10th 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      You wrote about Wade Graham: “He hasn’t put a foot wrong at rep level…”

      Comedy gold.

      • Columnist

        May 10th 2018 @ 7:31am
        Tim Gore said | May 10th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

        I’m here all week! Try the steak!

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