It is that time of the year when the lounge room warriors pick their State of Origin teams, so here goes.
Queensland since day dot have built their success on combinations, with the core of their teams coming from the Broncos, Storm and Cowboys. They’re players who play with each other week in, week out, and their combinations set in stone through club, state and Australian representation.
This is the basis of my Blues team. I have limited the number of teams we are pulling our players from, and 50/50 decisions have gone the way of the player who has played with the other team members before.
SOS preparation is limited and therefore there’s not the time to meet and greet. My team combines loyalty, form and combinations.
1. James Tedesco
He picks himself. He will excel with the combinations around him. He will benefit from playing with Damien Cook for a second year. He was last year’s ‘real’ player of the series.
2. Daniel Tupuo
He’s been there before. Blake Ferguson is in form but failed to show for preseason Blues bonding and has a history in camp. Tupuo has the combination with the Roosters left edge, which is important on both attack and defence. With Adam Reynolds’s kicking game and Tupou being the best in the air, they will be a constant threat.
3. Latrell Mitchell
He’s in form, he just needs to get involved.
4. Jack Wighton
He’s just ahead of Josh Morris. With Aubusson on the bench to cover centre, he provides cover for Tedesco and Keary. He started his career in the centres and he provides speed, strength and skill.
5. Josh Ado-Carr
He had a great year last year and he’s a great finisher and ball returner.
6. Luke Keary
He’s the form player and Churchill Medalist. He’s ahead of Cody Walker because of his combination with Tedesco and the Roosters left side, and he has also played with Adam Reynolds, so he links with the Souths connection. Don’t underestimate the importance of a spine that has combinations.
7. Adam Reynolds
He’s also ahead of Cody Walker, who is too similar to Luke Keary. Reynolds is an organiser who has the ability to kick Queensland to death. He is the link to both Cook and Keary. The combination with Crighton won’t hurt either. He has played SOS before so won’t be starry-eyed.
8. David Klemmer
Tough and strong. Enough said.
9. Damien Cook
He was possibly the stand-out player last series, perhaps with Tedesco – and that’s despite Origin judges voting for, Slater who played just two games. Honestly, is Slater still a chance despite being retired? He will be better again after playing with Tedesco last year and having his Souths teammate Reynolds calling the shots.
10. Paul Vaughan
He was there last year and got the job done.
11. Boyd Cordner
Captain and a member of Roosters left edge.
12. Tyson Frizell
He was there last year and he’s an impact player.
13. Jake Trbojevic
Again, he was there last year and he takes pressure off the halves. He’s an automatic selection.
14. Victor Radley
He’s a geniune second-rower but also cover for Cook. He gets the nod over Cameron Murray just on size – Murray is an 80-minute player, while the bench will need impact.
15. Mitch Aubuuson
He has utility value plus combines with the Rooster connection. He won’t be wasted on the bench as he can get in and roll up his sleeves and make a thousand tackles while the big boys take a breather.
16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
He was there last year and he’s a big bopper who will provide impact off the bench.
17. Tariq Sims
He gets the nod based on last year.
18. Cameron Murray
He’s in form and the perfect 18th man. He can slot into the team with strong combinations with Cook and Reynolds. He’s unlucky to miss a spot.
19. Tyronne Peachey
I would have him on standby on the night in case of any last-minute warm-up mishaps. He is down on form and playing frustrated; however, he was great on the bench last year and should be in and around the team.
There are four debutants, but three are from the Roosters and have played grand finals and will be surrounded by familiar faces. It was a 50/50 with Jack Wighton over Josh Morris. Jack has size, speed and skill, but he isn’t currently playing centre, plus he may just be keeping Tommy Turbo’s spot warm.
On the other hand Josh Morris has been there and done that and would be this year not marking Greg Inglis. Josh wouldn’t be a starry-eyed debutant. I have gone with Jack purely on form, and it is a good time to make his debut, with so many experienced players around him.
It was a really tough call to leave out James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. Maloney is a proven big-match winner, but Luke Keary also has two premierships to his name and is in form, plus he’s part of the winning Roosters left edge.
With Nathan Cleary it was tough – he is young and going to get much better, but with Maloney gone he lacks cohesion with the rest of the team. Adam Reynolds has been there before, combines well with Cook and Keary and is coming from a winning environment.
The bench, with playing two all-rounders in Radley and Aubusson, does lack a player like Cody Walker who could put the fear of god into a tiring pack, but Radley may be able to provide Cook with a breather to allow him to come back on and use his speed on tiring forwards.