In my last post I highlighted the selection headache Brad Fittler has in his five-eighth selection, now we go to another position which NSW has talent in bucketloads — fullback.
Whilst most will assume the starting 1 spot is locked up by incumbent James Tedesco and rightly so, the talent available to Freddy is mind-boggling.
Let’s start this delve into this fullback talent pool with Manly’s injury-prone superstar, Tom Trbojevic.
Tommy Turbo is an out-and-out star when he is healthy, producing outstanding results for his beloved Sea Eagles and updating highlight reels with both his incredible offensive and defensive efforts.
Turbo is also an imposing figure standing at 193 cm, he dominates the manly skyline. During his time playing for NSW, he has five tries from five games, only losing one of those matches.
Trbojevic has many fans scratching their heads not about his inclusion in the squad but where he will star. Wherever he is selected, Tom Trbojevic guarantees an incredible work rate and true passion, something that NSW missed last year.
Next up in the NSW fullback jewels is a man who was exiled from the squad after Game 1 in 2019, Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell.
The former Roosters star centre is on course for a potential return to the blue jersey with some stellar performances so far (five tries and six try assists to start the year), though the controversial Mitchell has also served a multitude of matches from the sideline thanks to a high and late shot on Tigers winger David Nofoaluma.
One of Mitchell’s redeeming features is his passion, however, this can often result in brain snaps.
If Latrell is picked his return to the Blues will be in a centre spot and Fittler will have to ensure Mitchell keeps his head and plays his best footy, which can break games open in an instant.
Moving onto the fourth fullback all-star for Fittler and his Blues squad, the former touch football sensation turned Melbourne Storm’s next electric fullback, Ryan Papenhuyzen.
A player who understands his assignment and knows the exact right place to be at the right time with his incredible rugby league-best support play.
Papenhuyzens’ incredible speed is another defining piece of his play, being able to burn off opponents left and right and terrorising defences league round.
Lil Papi’s game-breaking ability is almost certainly on Freddy’s radar and many expect the mulleted man to grab that 14 jersey with both hands and provide something extra special off of the bench.
Another fullback who is in contention for at the very least a squad spot is Parramatta Eels icon Clinton Gutherson.
The reigning Dally M fullback of the year debuted for NSW last year in the right centre role and had a total of three try assists over the series, while also filling into the fullback role when Tedesco failed his HIA in Game 3.
King Gutho has had another solid season with the effort-based fullback having seven tries and seven try assists over nine games.
Many will remember Kurt Capewell’s fend on Gutho leading to a try, however, starting out of position was also bound to offer defensive difficulties.
Whether Gutho claims that centre spot again or the 14 jersey, he will bring his workman-like behaviour to the Origin arena no matter where he’s selected.
Finally, the incumbent and brilliant NSW number 1, James Tedesco.
Teddy has had another stellar start of a campaign with seven tries and three try assists in his eight games.
There really isn’t an argument against Tedesco to be the Blues starting fullback, he has done it all before and his big-game experience is crucial to the Blues success.
His link-up play with hooker Damien Cook is next level and Teddy’s superb defensive efforts have won NSW as many games as his attacking efforts have.
An incredibly gifted player and one of the top three players in the rugby league world, James Tedesco is the first name on the team sheet.
So, while the number 1 spot should be a certain lock, how Freddy picks his remaining backline spots will certainly be interesting and don’t be surprised if you see more than one of these NSW fullbacks in the squad.