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MICHAEL HAGAN: Origin I selections so crucial - who Blues, Maroons should pick for series opener

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24th May, 2022
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Getting your team selections right for the first game of any State of Origin series is so crucial which is why I think Brad Fittler and Billy Slater will stick with the majority of tried and true players.

Origin I sets the tone for the series and history tells us that if you don’t win it’s nigh on impossible to then have to achieve back-to-back victories to get your hands on the shield at the end of game three.

With the first match in Sydney this year – and rightly so after Queensland hosted all three fixtures in 2021 due to the pandemic – added with the fact that the Maroons have a new coach at the helm, it’s little surprise that the Blues are favourites again after their comprehensive 2-1 win last year.

But then again the bookies always make NSW the favourites but we don’t mind being underdogs in Queensland.

I don’t think Billy would be underestimating how much of a gap there is to make up on NSW after last year and there’s only a short space of time to prepare and get everything in place.


Not every NRL player is an Origin player and you don’t want to get your selections wrong because if you do, then you may have to make wholesale changes for the next game and you’re chasing your tail.

Latrell Mitchell scores intercept try

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

You’ve got to know handle the week, the occasion and if you have more than a couple of rookies it can be hard to do that because It can become a bit overwhelming.

With more than a week to prepare, it’s your best time all series to get some cohesion into your team with players coming from all over the place. You go into the game with the benefit of at least a nine-day rest for your players after their last NRL game.


Queensland ran into a heap of trouble last year with picking players who were underdone or couldn’t train to the full extent in the lead-up to the first match in Townsville and that ended in disaster so the Maroons can’t afford to make those mistakes again.

If I’m in Billy Slater’s shoes, I want a fit and healthy team for game one and one that’s going well. 

Hagan’s Maroons

1 Kalyn Ponga
2 Murray Taulagi
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Dane Gagai
5 Xavier Coates
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Josh Papali’i
9 Harry Grant
10 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
11 Felise Kaufusi
12 Kurt Capewell
13 Jai Arrow
14 Ben Hunt
15 Patrick Carrigan
16 Jeremiah Nanai
17 Moeaki Fotuaika


Taulagi has been in great form for the Cowboys, he’s a big body who can get good yardage out of the back field and he’s built a smooth combination with Val Holmes on North Queensland’s left edge so I’d pick him ahead of Selwyn Cobbo, who definitely looks like an Origin player of the future.

Billy would have played with Val and Dane Gagai in the backs for Queensland so he knows he can rely on them to get the job done. That can be a blessing and a curse – I coached a few guys at Newcastle who I’d played alongside. It can be awkward but if you have a good relationship with them, then it shouldn’t be a problem being able to deliver them the truth even if they don’t want to hear it.

Ben Hunt scores a try

Ben Hunt scores for the Maroons against the Blues. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

In the forwards the Maroons will have tremendous go-forward from Papali’i, big Tino and Jai Arrow plus you’ve got Ben Hunt to cover hooker on the bench if Harry Grant gets injured or needs a spell.


The rest of the bench was the tricky part of the selection for Queensland.

David Fifita is supposed to be making an early comeback for the Titans on Friday night against the Broncos but he might not be match fit for Origin. If Fifita doesn’t play then I’d be more than happy to go with a couple of rookies in Patrick Carrigan and Jeremiah Nanai with Moeaki Fotuaika completing the interchange.

Carrigan has been one of the Broncos’ best forwards this year and he’s got a good offload in him, Nanai is perfect if you’re chasing a try so he’d be handy on the bench and Fotuaika has been there, done that for Queensland the past couple of years.

One of the secrets to Mal Meninga’s success as Maroons coach was to pick starting players at club level on the bench – guys who can play long minutes week to week who will then be able to handle shorter stints off the bench in Origin when the intensity and pace of the game is so much higher.


Hagan’s Blues

1 James Tedesco
2 Josh Addo-Carr
3 Stephen Crichton
4 Kotoni Staggs
5 Brian To’o
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nathan Cleary
8 Payne Haas
9 Damien Cook
10 Junior Paulo
11 Cameron Murray
12 Liam Martin
13 Isaah Yeo
14 Nicho Hynes
15 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
16 Jake Trbojevic
17 Keaon Koloamotangi

NSW have been so successful because they’ve adopted the old Queensland mentality of being loyal to the guys who’ve done the job in the past few years.

They are in a position where they have to make a few changes with their two usual centres, Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, out injured.

I think Stephen Crichton is a no-brainer to come in for one of those spots given his relationship with the other Panthers that will be in the team and I’d go with Kotoni Staggs as the right centre – he’d be up against Val Holmes and that’d be an awesome battle on the edge.

Josh Addo-Carr celebrates a series victory

Josh Addo-Carr celebrates winning Origin. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Watch out for Josh Addo-Carr in Origin. He’s been having a rough trot, not through a lack of effort on his own behalf, with Canterbury struggling in club footy and I think it’ll be good for him to get that NSW jersey back on and get amongst it at Origin level.

If Cameron Murray’s fit, he should be in the second row with Liam Martin. Junior Paulo and Payne Haas are your props and Isaah Yeo at lock with Damien Cook at hooker – that’s a formidable pack.

Nicho Hynes, because he can play so many positions, I’d go with him on the bench. He could fill in at dummy-half and even play lock at a pinch plus he can cover every spot in the backline. 

Jake Trbojevic is one of their mainstays so he should be on the bench so that leaves two spots. 

I think Reagan Campbell-Gillard’s form has been too good at club level to deny him a spot ahead of Daniel Saifiti and Keaon Koloamatangi has been one of the best back-rowers in the NRL in recent years so deserves a run.

Some players thrive in Origin and I think he’s one of those. He’d add some leg speed and punch to their bench.