This year’s State of Origin contest will be like none other before it.
Played in the weeks following the grand final for the first time and from within a COVID-19 bubble, each state will choose a squad of 27 players who will make up their teams, and the squad can’t be added to in the event of injury or poor form.
Players begin to be selected from next week, firstly from those teams who don’t make the final eight before being added to from teams in the top eight as they are eliminated from the finals.
The challenge for selectors will be to pick a squad of players who are not only in form and capable of playing Origin but are also fit and ready to go. Choosing players with lingering injuries would be fraught with danger.
There has been high injury attrition this year and we can probably expect more injuries to occur in the next few weeks. Last round we saw the likely elimination through injury of both David Fifita and Tom Trbojevic. We can also expect some players to make themselves unavailable to train on the basis they either need to attend to injuries (whether real or imagined) or need to leave the bubble for personal reasons.
It’s a long season and not every player will be in shape for three more high-intensity games, particularly those who may have peaked both physically and emotionally for, say, the grand final. For this, Origin may even be an anti-climax.
Here are the players I believe will come under consideration for the train on Origin squads.
Queensland: Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue, Patrick Carrigan and Xavier Coates.
New South Wales: Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs
Queensland: Josh Papalii, Dunamis Lui and Corey Horsburgh.
New South Wales: Nick Cotric, Jarrod Croker and Jack Wighton.
New South Wales: Will Hopoate.
Queensland: Ronaldo Mulitalo.
New South Wales: Wade Graham and Jesse Ramien.
Gold Coast Titans
Queensland: Corey Thompson, Ashley Taylor, Jarrod Wallace, Jai Arrow and AJ Brimson.
New South Wales: Nil.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Queensland: Daly Cherry-Evans.
New South Wales: Jake Trbojevic.
Queensland: Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi, Christian Welch and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
New South Wales: Josh Addo-Carr, Dale Finucane and Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Queensland: Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann.
New South Wales: David Klemmer, Mitchell Pearce, Daniel Saifiti and Jacob Saifiti.
North Queensland Cowboys
Queensland: Kyle Feldt, Michael Morgan, Josh McGuire and Valentine Holmes.
New South Wales: Jordan McClean.
Queensland: Reed Mahoney.
New South Wales: Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Blake Ferguson, Junior Paulo, Clint Gutherson and Ryan Matterson.
Queensland: Kurt Capewell.
New South Wales: Nathan Cleary, Apisai Koroisau, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Queensland: Dane Gagai, Jaydn Su’a.
New South Wales: Damien Cook, Campbell Graham, Alex Johnston, Cameron Murray, Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Queensland: Ben Hunt.
New South Wales: Tyson Frizell, Zac Lomax and Cameron McInnes.
Queensland: Jake Friend and Lindsay Collins.
New South Wales: Boyd Cordner, Angus Crichton, James Tedesco, Luke Keary and Daniel Tupou.
Queensland: Harry Grant and Moses Mbye.
New South Wales: David Nofoaluma.
New Zealand Warriors
New South Wales: Nil.
That adds up to 41 New South Wales players and 33 Queensland players. The squads are expected to comprise:
If they are the likely contenders, the final squads may look something like this:
Josh Addo-Carr, Clint Gutherson, Campbell Graham, Zac Lomax, James Tedesco, Kotoni Staggs, Nick Cotric and Jack Wighton.
Jake Trbojevic, Dale Finucane, David Klemmer, Daniel Saifiti, Cameron Murray, Isaah Yeo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo.
Nathan Cleary, Luke Keary, Damien Cook, Apisai Koroisau and Mitchell Pearce.
Wade Graham, Boyd Cordner, Angus Crichton and Tyson Frizell.
Ryan Papenhuyzen and Cameron McInnes.
Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, Kalyn Ponga, Moses Mbye, Kyle Feldt, Michael Morgan, Corey Oates and AJ Brimson.
Josh Papalii, Lindsay Collins, Josh McGuire, Christian Welch, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Jarrod Wallace, Jai Arrow and Corey Horsburgh.
Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster, Jake Friend, Ashley Taylor and Harry Grant.
Felise Kaufusi, Jaydn Su’a, Kurt Capewell and Patrick Carrigan.
Ben Hunt and Kurt Mann.
So it’s not that easy filling those squads, and the Queensland squad looks down on talent. It may very well be a case of last man standing by the time Game 1 in Adelaide rolls around.