Origin is a special competition, from its unique nature fostered by a state duopoly on the NRL to the passion it ignites that is generally reserved for only the fiercest international sporting rivalries.
State of Origin is all about balance. Balance in your game plan, balance in your combinations and balance on the bench.
With debate raging about who should play in the number 14 for NSW, a number of alternatives are being bandied about.
Will it be the speed, size and strength of Jack Wighton? The pure footballing nous of Clint Gutherson or the holy-grail of utilities in Tyrone Peachey? Another suggestion is that Roosters missile merchant Victor Radley could be a goer in the role, but he lacks the versatility of the aforementioned trio and would likely end up simply playing as an extra forward. If that was the case, there’s a few big men ahead of him.
What hasn’t been spoke about is how important Rabbitohs’ ace Cameron Murray could be to the final decision. He’s an absolute certainty for a spot in Fittler’s final 17 and if used wisely could provide a significant chunk of the utility value that is so desperately craved in the modern Origin arena.
While he may not have the versatility of a Peachey, Wighton or Gutherson, Cameron Murray can play on an edge, through the middle and from dummy half. What he won’t do however, is cover for the backs or the halves if something goes wrong.
Enter Ryan Matterson.
The Wests Tigers recruit is having another standout year in the NRL and such is his form that he’d likely handle a starting spot if thrown into the deep end for Game 1. With Tyson Frizell having a mortgage on that right edge however, Matterson could be an absolute master stroke from the interchange.
During his time with both the Roosters and now the Tigers, Matterson has literally played everywhere from wing to front row.
His selection, along with Murray, would also provide genuine fluency to the interchange bench. We all remember in 2016 when Dylan Walker – an out and out centre – was selected on the pine only to be thrown on way too late with no particular role in mind. It was a waste of a bench spot and ultimately impacted the balance of the forward rotation as a whole.
Matterson and Murray would nullify that risk.
Even if his versatility isn’t called upon in the event of injury or sin-binning, Matterson has the frame and ball playing ability to play as an impact forward.
In addition, Murray’s lightning play the ball speed will be liquid gold for the likes of Damien Cook and James Tesdsco when the Queensland big men tire.
In essence, Matterson and Murray would both add spark as out and out forwards. Their utility value is a bonus.
It takes two to tango and in Matterson and Murray, NSW could have the perfect interchange jive. With the Blues likely to head into the 2019 series as red hot favourites, they need to get everything right.