Another two teams bit the dust on the weekend as the seasons of both the Roosters and the Eels came to a crashing halt.
NSW coach Brad Fittler has wasted no time in adding nine more players to the NSW squad from the departing teams, bringing the squad to a total of 15 players with 12 more to come.
Joining the previously selected Zac Lomax, Cameron McInnes, Payne Haas, Jake Trbojevic and Tyson Frizell and Daniel Saifiti are the following players.
Boyd Cordner, Luke Keary, James Tedesco, Angus Crichton and Daniel Tupou.
Clint Gutherson, Reagan Campbell–Gillard, Junior Paulo and Nathan Brown.
The remaining 12 players required to make up the squad are expected to be named from the four teams still alive in the finals.
As I see it, the only real surprises in this latest tranche of squad additions are as follows:
The omission of Ryan Matterson, who has been named in most people’s squads ever since his inclusion as 18th man in the 2019 series.
Matterson has had a very good season, particularly earlier in the year, and had a solid game against Souths on Saturday.
Admittedly, his form has dropped off a little in recent weeks but this is partially attributable to the fact that the Eels’ right side attack has been stilted of late and have not been receiving early ball from Mitchell Moses.
It looks like Fittler has gone for the more physical Angus Crichton and Tyson Frizell as his first choice right edge forwards.
The omission of Mitchell Moses, who may have been a chance earlier in the season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t done enough in recent weeks to justify selection.
It’s expected that the 27-man squad will include at least five players who can play in the halves and hooker, plus two utility players.
With both Moses and Mitchell Pearce overlooked, Luke Keary and Cameron McInnes already selected, and Nathan Cleary, Damien Cook and Apisai Koroisau certain to be added to the squad in future weeks barring injury, it will be interesting to see who ends up filling the remaining two spots.
With three hookers named above, the last two will probably be halves, and my guess is that they will be South’s Cody Walker and Penrith’s Jarome Lui.
Alternatively, Fittler may opt to go with the option of playing Jack Wighton in the halves rather than at centre. Time will tell.
While not a surprise at any level, Clint Gutherson’s selection is certainly interesting, and his form has been simply irresistible in recent weeks.
Gutherson is never beaten and never off the ball and he has to be among the fittest players in the competition. Barring injury to James Tedesco, he’s almost no chance of playing fullback, and then there’s Ryan Papenhuyzen!
With the withdrawal of Tom Trbojevic who was first choice right centre for NSW last year, I suspect that Fittler will use Gutherson in the run on side, most likely at right centre, or if not, on the right wing. I think that Ryan Papenhuyzen will fill one of the bench spots and be brought on to terrorise the tiring QLD forwards.
Having Tedesco, Gutherson and Papenhuyzen on the field together would spell triple trouble for the QLD side, who are themselves struggling to put a quality team together.
Stay tuned for more selection surprises next week after two more teams are eliminated from the premiership race. NSW lost Blake Ferguson to injury last week and injuries could play a further part in the final shape of the NSW squad. It may well be a case of last man standing.