Brad Fittler has revealed his Blues team for Origin 1 after a weekend of injuries to what seemed like every halves contender – plus a few more other handy players – in the state.
Here’s how each selection in the squad stacks up.
The NRL’s fastest man isn’t in the same great form that he was this time last year, but there was never much doubt he’d be in the squad for the second year in a row. Addo-Carr’s pace down the touchline and elite finishing ability provides the Blues with a constant attacking threat, and there’s every chance he’ll be in the mix for leading try-scorer this series.
The Panthers halfback is awfully lucky to be selected after his side’s wretched start to 2019, but with injuries to Mitchell Pearce, Luke Keary and Adam Reynolds made him the last half standing – even if the latter was cleared of a serious injury. Still, maybe Cleary will benefit from playing under a better coach than his dad, and his performance against the Eels on Thursday indicated his form isn’t as bad as his club’s.
As one of the strongest defensive halves in the game, Cleary’s defence won’t be a worry, but he’ll need to influence the Blues attack far more than he did last year, when he finished the series without any tries, try assists, line breaks and line break assists.
Cook would have been one of the first names on the team sheet. His pace around the ruck gave Queensland headaches all through 2018, a trend we can expect to continue this year – he’s currently head, shoulders and torso ahead of everyone else in the NRL for dummy half runs. With the Maroons struggling in the hooker department, expect Cook to exploit that weakness and give the Blues a real edge in a key position.
Boyd Cordner (c)
In Cordner, NSW have one of the best skippers in the business. The Roosters second rower captained his club, state and country last year with plenty of success. He’s one of the most consistent edge runners in the game, capable of chipping in with the odd try here and there, and is a reliable defender too. Was immense in the series-clinching Game 2 win last year.
It’s always been a case of not if but when Nick Cotric makes his way onto the State of Origin stage. With just two tries and five linebreaks to his name heading into this weekend, 2019 hasn’t been Cotric’s best, but he’s always looked capable of handling the jump to Origin. He’s also been defending better this year than ever before – his tackle efficiency is up ten per cent from last year – something which no doubt helped sway Fittler.
Crichton has been used less as a damaging edge runner this year with the Roosters than he was last season with the Bunnies, but his defensive impact has changed little. That won’t concern Fittler too much – Crichton averaged 30 tackles a game last Origin series despite coming off the bench, and he’ll be asked to play a similar role once again.
One of many to be hit by the injury bug this weekend, Frizell will have to overcome a nasty head knock and concussion to be fit for Game 1. If healthy, the Dragons second rower is an automatic selection, having looked at home in his Blues jersey since the day he put it on. Boasts great speed and footwork for a forward, and his efficiency in defence is something coaches dream of.
Haas is comfortably the most exciting selection of this squad. The Broncos youngster is averaging more than 30 tackles per game at 92 per cent efficiency, is second in the NRL for post-contact metres per game, and has been going for nearly 175 running metres per game. While his inexperience is a red flag – he’ll be making his Origin debut with just ten NRL games under his belt – the 20-year-old offers everything you want from a bench forward.
A mad wrecking ball of a front rower, Klemmer is at home in Origin. Currently leading the NRL for post-contact metres, his aggression in attack and defence is going to be tough for the Maroons to contain.
A drop in form which has coincided with speculation about his future was never going to stop Latrell Mitchell from suiting up for the Blues, particularly when you consider New South Wales’ horrid lack of depth at centre right now.
The Roosters star showed last year he has a penchant for stepping up onto the big stage of Origin, dominating his clashes with Maroons stalwart Will Chambers. Mitchell will be the biggest threat to the Queensland defence, so his form will dictate how Game 1 – and the entire series – plays out.
Morris is a reliable defender, but this is a safe and uninspired selection from Fittler, particularly when you consider Queensland no longer have as much of an attacking threat in the centres with Greg Inglis retired. Won’t let anyone down, but it would have been nice to see Jesse Ramien given a nod instead.
Here’s someone playing well beyond his age right now. The 21-year-old Murray is having a phenomenal year for the table-topping Rabbitohs both in attack and defence. He’ll be asked to fill the void left by Jack de Belin, a tough ask for a youngster, but considering his output this year and his history as a captain in age-group footy, he’s more than capable of stepping up. Looks a player who’ll be around Origin for many seasons to come.
There was never any doubt about Tedesco’s place in the side. Clearly one of the best two fullbacks in the competition, he was outstanding for the Blues last year, impacting the game on both sides of the ball. His battle with Kalyn Ponga is going to be a highlight not just in 2019 but in many series to come.
Trbojevic epitomises the ‘cut em in half’ approach to tackling. The best lock forward in the NRL, he’s going to have a more significant role to play for the Blues this year with Jack de Belin ineligible for selection, and it’s hard to imagine him handling the responsibility with anything but aplomb.
One of the best-performed props in the NRL over the past few years, Vaughan is a consistent performer who, despite the Dragons’ shaky start to the year, has actually improved most of his statistical averages in 2019. After barely cracking 80 minutes of gametime in his three Origins last year, Fittler would be well served to give Vaughan more of a run this series.
Here’s the main beneficiary from Luke Keary’s injury. Walker’s been in fine form for the Rabbitohs, his running game and ability to find the try-line both significant reasons why Souths find themselves atop the table. Will challenge the Maroons defensive line on his own, but Walker is also more than capable of providing for his teammates, as his excellent linebreak and try assist numbers show.
If there was a most improved player award in the NRL, Jack Wighton would be one of the favourites for it right now. In fine form for the Raiders, he can cover just about every backline position off the bench bar halfback, and is an excellent choice to fill the bench utility role with incumbent Tyrone Peachey out of form.