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Opinion

Round 11 Talking Points: Rising stars put their hands up for Origin debuts ... but don't expect many

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Expert
14th May, 2023
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There’s no substitute for experience, especially at Origin level, so that’s why I think both coaches will go for the tried and true performers when they name their teams.

At this time of year there’s always a mountain of debate about who should be keeping their spots, who needs to go and who should get called up.

I think Brad Fittler won’t panic and bring in too many new faces and Billy Slater will stick with the Queensland tradition of sticking with the guys who have done the job after winning last year’s series.

When Mal Meninga had his Maroons team that won eight straight a decade-plus ago, he would only bring in a couple of new faces every year.

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Fullback is the spot that’s most up for debate at the moment with Queensland with Kalyn Ponga the incumbent with Reece Walsh and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow doing everything they can to force their way in.

Kalyn Ponga of the Newcastle Knights scores a try

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

I think from the way he played for Newcastle against the Titans on Sunday that Ponga should get the nod.

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He was outstanding for the Maroons last year and even though he’s playing five-eighth at club level, he knows what’s required in Origin.

Walsh has been dynamic for the Broncos. He still has the occasional error in his game – he reminds me a bit of Slater when he was first breaking into the Queensland team nearly 20 years ago.

Slater had to bide his time back then – he played his first series on the wing and players like Rhys Wesser, Matt Bowen and Karmichael Hunt were picked ahead of him before he cemented the spot a few years later and then never looked back.

The Hammer has been awesome for the Dolphins and I’d be surprised if they can’t find room for him somewhere in the extended squad.

Valentine Holmes will be one centre and Dane Gagai will be the other. Selwyn Cobbo and Xavier Coates will be the wingers.

In the forwards, I think David Fifita will get a start in the second row with Kurt Capewell.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Lindsay Collins and Patrick Carrigan pick themselves as the starting middles and I’d have Tom Gilbert, Corey Horsburgh and Reuben Cotter on the interchange.

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Slater has several options with Josh Papalii, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Tom Flegler all in good club form as well.

How the Maroons should line up

1 Kalyn Ponga
2 Xavier Coates
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 Reuben Cotter
17 Corey Horsburgh

With the Blues, it looks like Jarome Luai has got the five-eighth spot and Nicho Hynes is gonna come off the bench for them to cover a range of spots if someone gets injured.

If they’re only going to go with one hooker, I’d pick Damien Cook. He’s been great for the Rabbitohs this year and he’s got a solid combination already with a lot of the guys who’ll be in the team.

His Souths teammate, Campbell Graham, should also be in there. Whether they play him at centre and Tom Trbojevic on the wing or vice versa, I’d have those two on the right edge and Latrell Mitchell with Brian To’o on the left.

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Tom Trbojevic of the Blues runs the ball

Tom Trbojevic. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Tommy Turbo hasn’t been in the best form this year with a few injuries holding him back at Manly but he’s the kind of player who will lift in Origin.

I think you can throw James Tedesco in that category too. His Roosters side is struggling a bit and you can see he’s not too happy about that but when he gets into the Origin arena for the Blues, he always rises to the occasion.

In the forwards, their starting pack looks pretty set and they need to make a few decisions around their bench.

Jake Trbojevic is under an injury cloud with a calf problem and they’ve got a few other forwards out in Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Keaon Koloamatangi and Spencer Leniu, who might have been a chance.

I can see why Tyson Frizell is now being mentioned to get another shot at Origin – he has been one of Newcastle’s best players all season and he wouldn’t let anyone down.

Haumole Olakau’atu is a good young prospect but it might be a bit risky throwing him in at this stage.

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Hudson Young has been strong for the Raiders, I wouldn’t mind seeing him go up against Horsburgh in Origin in the near future – the old mate versus mate, state versus state.

How the Blues should line up

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

Winter is here, playing styles need to change

Now that it’s starting to get a bit cooler, it’s a bit slipperier and there’s more dew on the turf, teams have to change their playing styles.

You don’t need too much of the finesse at this time of year.

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I thought Canberra’s approach to power running, short passes and offloads against Parramatta was a good example of that.

They’ve won five in a row now and they have to be taken seriously as a finals contender.

(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Penrith did likewise in their demolition of the Roosters and Melbourne played to the conditions better down south than Brisbane at the start of the round.

It’s something we see in Origin too – the conditions change and you can’t afford to be too expansive because the errors will be costly.

Knights respond in best possible way

After a last-start hammering by Parramatta and unfair criticism about their mid-season break, the Knights responded with a very positive effort against the Titans on Sunday.

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Led by Tyson Frizell and Kalyn Ponga, they won comfortably in the end with six tries in the second half.

Hats off to their coach, Adam O’Brien, for sticking with Ponga at five-eighth – he did a tremendous job and if he can keep performing like that, the wins will come a lot more often for Newcastle.

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