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Origin I predicted teams: Turbo turmoil, Foxx's late dash with early return, Ponga facing moment of truth

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Expert
11th May, 2023
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We are now just two rounds away from the first State of Origin squads being selected and Josh Addo-Carr is launching a late bid for a recall by making an early return for the Bulldogs this weekend. 

While the Queensland squad appears relatively settled as they look to defend their title, the Blues have all sorts of selection conundrums although coach Brad Fittler is playing his selection cards close to his chest heading into the May 31 series opener at Adelaide Oval.

The Blues are set to name their Origin I squad next Sunday night after Round 11 with Maroons coach Billy Slater to follow the morning after.

Wing is one spot that is up for grabs at NSW with incumbent Daniel Tupou sidelined until Round 14 with a hamstring tear. 

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Addo-Carr, who has not played since suffering ankle damage in the Good Friday loss to Souths, has been named in coach Cameron Ciraldo’s squad for this Friday’s clash with the Warriors and he will have two matches to impress Fittler. 

Josh Addo-Carr scores a try in Queensland

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There is also ongoing concern surrounding the form and fitness of Tom Trbojevic, who was well below his best in Manly’s loss to Brisbane last Friday in his return from a groin injury. 

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Previously considered an automatic selection as a centre, he is under pressure from in-form Rabbitohs international Campbell Graham.

“I think everyone’s seen how well he plays at Origin level no matter if he’s coming off injuries or not playing many games,” Tedesco told reporters on Monday. “He still comes in and kills it. There’d be no doubts over Tommy in the Origin arena.”

Tupou is one of a few players from last year’s series decider at Suncorp Stadium who is not in contention for the Adelaide fixture.

Queensland forward Jeremiah Nanai is out of the running as he still has three more matches to serve for a hip-drop ban while winger Corey Oates is unlikely to hold his spot as he’s not due back until next week because of a knee injury.

Slater said he won’t make a call on whether he sticks with Ponga at the back until he sees how he goes for Newcastle over the next fortnight.

Kalyn Ponga. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

For NSW, second-rower Liam Martin’s ongoing hamstring woes mean he is running out of time. He was named in the reserves for Penrith’s clash this Friday with the Roosters and the club indicated on Thursday night he is on track to play but if he is unable to suit up for this game, his final chance is in Round 12 when the Panthers take on Brisbane in the final hit-out before Origin squads are selected.

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Veteran middle Jake Trbojevic is probably out of game one after suffering a grade-two calf tear for Manly a fortnight ago. Trbojevic is hoping to miss only a couple of weeks but the Sea Eagles are likely to be more cautious with their pack leader.

Here’s how the two states are shaping up for the May 31 showdown at Adelaide Oval with 160 minutes of game time left before the teams are announced.

NSW Blues

2022 Origin III team

1 James Tedesco
2 Brian To’o
3 Matt Burton
4 Stephen Crichton
5 Daniel Tupou
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nathan Cleary
8 Junior Paulo
9 Api Koroisau
10 Jake Trbojevic
11 Cameron Murray
12 Liam Martin
13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange
14 Damien Cook
15 Jacob Saifiti
16 Angus Crichton
17 Siosifa Talakai

2023 contenders

Blues spine: Luai is under immense pressure to retain the No.6 jersey with South Sydney’s Cody Walker joining Sharks playmaker Nicho Hynes in the race to partner Cleary in the halves. 

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Judging by the way Fittler spoke when asked about the pivotal decision last week, he appears to be leaning towards sticking with Luai, agreeing that he has been undersold in the debate about five-eighth options. 

Canterbury’s Matt Burton’s is probably out of the running but could jag a bench utility berth although Hynes covers more positions.

However, with the Blues likely to stick with Koroisau and Cook in a dummy-half rotation, they may not pick another designated utility on the bench.

Outside backs: Addo-Carr’s chances of a recall are probably slim even if he does get back to his best in the next week or two after Fittler brushed him last year.

Brian To’o is a lock for one spot while Campbell Graham and Joseph Suaalii are other options. 

Graham’s familiarity with Mitchell could weigh heavily in his favour although if Tom Trbojevic continues to struggle at club level, the Blues may do the unthinkable and not pick the 2021 Dally M Medal winner and hand a debut jersey to the 23-year-old Rabbitoh.

Forward pack: Payne Haas is leading the Dally M Medal count and will be one of the first NSW players picked while Eels prop Junior Paulo is also an automatic starter. 

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Middle-forward options for the interchange have taken a hit with Eels prop Reagan Campbell-Gillard sidelined long term and Jake Trbojevic racing the clock with his calf concern.

Spencer Leniu, a former NSW under 20 representative who represented Samoa at the World Cup last year, has been in strong form for Penrith and could have been thrown his first sky-blue jersey but the Panthers announced on Thursday night that he will be out for a couple of weeks after suffering a ruptured testicle in a training mishap which has required surgery.

Newcastle twins Daniel and Jacob Saifiti have Origin experience while Andrew Johns has floated the option of using Cameron Murray as a bench middle rather than starting in the second row, which was a move the Blues made on game night for the series opener last year. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 03: Liam Martin of the Blues trains during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin squad training session at Coogee Oval on June 03, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Liam Martin. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Martin aggravated his hamstring injury when he tried to make a comeback three weeks ago in Newcastle so Penrith could keep him in cotton wool again this Friday despite including him in the extended squad.

Apart from Martin, the other second-row options are Roosters star Angus Crichton, who is three games back after a late start to the season, Manly’s Haumole Olakau’atu and Canberra’s Hudson Young. South Sydney’s Keaon Koloamatangi could have been a debutant option but he is out until next month with ankle damage.

Crichton has also been used in the middle-forward rotation at Origin level so he’s almost assured of an interchange berth if not needed in the run-on side. 

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Possible 2023 Origin I team

1 James Tedesco
2 Brian To’o
3 Tom Trbojevic
4 Latrell Mitchell
5 Campbell Graham
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nathan Cleary
8 Payne Haas
9 Api Koroisau
10 Junior Paulo
11 Cameron Murray
12 Liam Martin
13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange
14 Damien Cook
15 Daniel Saifiti
16 Angus Crichton
17 Haumole Olakau’atu
18 Nicho Hynes

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Queensland Maroons

2002 Origin III team

1 Kalyn Ponga
2 Selwyn Cobbo
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Dane Gagai
5 Corey Oates
6 Tom Dearden
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Lindsay Collins
9 Ben Hunt
10 Josh Papalii
11 Kurt Capewell
12 Jeremiah Nanai
13 Patrick Carrigan
Interchange
14 Harry Grant
15 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
16 Jai Arrow
17 Tom Gilbert

2023 contenders

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Maroons spine: Slater said it was premature to be making a decision on the contentious No.1 jersey with incumbent Kalyn Ponga facing stiff competition from Brisbane’s Reece Walsh and Dolphins speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

“We have a duty to Queensland to give them the best possible team that we think will go out and play their best footy. That (Ponga decision) will have to wait.”

Ponga has been a big-game performer for the Maroons, particularly last year, but he has been playing out of position at five-eighth for Newcastle and has made just three meaningful appearances this season for a paltry two line breaks. 

After the Knights had the bye for Magic Round, he has two chances – against the Titans and Sharks – to show he is worthy of another chance.

Walsh has four tries and 11 assists in nine appearances for Brisbane while Tabuai-Fidow has touched down 10 times for the Dolphins while also setting up a couple more four-pointers. 

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow on debut for Queensland

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Outside backs: Tabuai-Fidow is probably the outsider in the fullback race but could partner Holmes in the centres if the Maroons move on from Gagai, who has given them great service in 22 Origins.

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The Hammer could also find a home on the wing although Cobbo and Storm star Xavier Coates are both highly rated in the Queensland camp after making the most of their chances early in their Origin careers.

Forward pack: Titans marquee David Fifita looks certain to return for his first Origin since 2021 with Slater saying “his involvement has been the best it has been for a long time”. 

“He has worked on some things off the ball that he didn’t necessarily have in his game the last few years, so he has been good.”

With Nanai serving his hip-drop ban, Slater could bring Fifita straight back into the starting side or use him as an impact option off the bench. 

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: David Fifita of the Titans is tackled during the round seven NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium on April 15, 2023 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

David Fifita. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Capewell’s versatility could mean he ends up on the interchange while Kaufusi is getting back to his best at the Dolphins after a recent four-game suspension. 

Canberra’s Corey Horbsburgh is rapidly rising up the pecking order with his strong recent form while Papalii, his Raiders teammate, is probably on the way out.

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Slater has many options for his pack with Storm prop Christian Welch getting back to his best after his Achilles tear, while Brisbane’s Tom Flegler, Parramatta lock J’maine Hopgood, North Queensland’s Reuben Cotter and Dolphins lock Tom Gilbert have all mounted strong selection cases as well.

Nanai’s recent form probably meant he was going to struggle to make the cut anyway while Rabbitohs veteran Jai Arrow is probably going to miss out on the game-day 17.

Possible 2023 Origin I team

1 Reece Walsh
2 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
3 Valentine Holmes
4 Dane Gagai
5 Selwyn Cobbo
6 Cameron Munster
7 Daly Cherry-Evans
8 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui
9 Ben Hunt
10 Lindsay Collins
11 Kurt Capewell
12 David Fifita
13 Patrick Carrigan
Interchange
14 Harry Grant
15 Tom Gilbert
16 Felise Kaufusi
17 Christian Welch
18 Reuben Cotter

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