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NSW Origin I team: Hynes, Pangai, Young to debut, Turbo, Frizell, Foxx back but duo ruled out in new-look side

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Expert
23rd May, 2023
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Blues coach Brad Fittler is bringing in three debutants with two of them in the run-on side but is largely banking on experience after naming a squad stacked with veterans for Origin I in Adelaide next Wednesday. 

Fittler has named an 19-man squad and Tevita Pangai jnr is the biggest surprise with the Canterbury firebrand earning his first call-up after Jake Trbojevic withdrew from selection as he tries to manage his calf injury despite a stirring performance in his comeback for Manly on Sunday.

Sharks star Nicho Hynes and Canberra forward Hudson Young will also make their first appearance for NSW as a reward for their stellar club form. 

Young and Pangai have been named in the starting pack ahead of more-experienced representative stars Junior Paulo and Cameron Murray while Tyson Frizell is also in the second row in his first Origin since 2020 with Liam Martin named on the interchange.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22: Tevita Pangai Junior, Nicholas Hynes and Hudson Young of the Blues pose during a NSW Blues State of Origin Media Opportunity at the Crowne Plaza, Coogee on May 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Blues debutants Tevita Pangai jnr, Nicho Hynes and Hudson Young. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Fittler recalled Tom Trbojevic after his stunning return to form with a hat-trick for the Sea Eagles while Latrell Mitchell, who also missed last year’s series due to injury, will be his centre partner as NSW try to wrest the Origin shield back from Queensland’s grasp after the Maroons’ 2-1 series win in 2022.

Unthinkable just a few weeks ago, Trbojevic had been under pressure to retain his spot in the NSW backline after being well below his best following his return from a groin injury.

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“He’s always considered if he’s available,” Fittler said. “You talk about a gamble, you just have to gamble that he’s going to be ready. Very rarely has he ever let us down. We had his name written with a heavy lead pencil.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Blues checked in on St George Illawarra’s Jack de Belin‘s fitness but the controversial forward missed the cut.

Frizell was described by Fittler as “a tough player in the best nick he’s been in for quite a while”.

FULL ORIGIN TEAM DETAILS FOR BOTH SQUADS HERE

Test winger Josh Addo-Carr has also been recalled after he launched a last-ditch bid for selection, scoring a try in Canterbury’s Round 12 win over the Titans on Sunday. 

Addo-Carr was controversially omitted from the NSW squad last year and had been sidelined since Easter with an ankle injury. 

Josh Addo-Carr scores a try in Queensland

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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Campbell Graham was selected to be the 18th player but has pulled out due to a sternum injury with Wests Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu and Panthers outside back Stephen Crichton forming the extended bench.

Fittler described the squad as “the most experienced team we’ve fielded in a long time”.

He will roll with just one hooker instead of using Api Koroisau and Damien Cook in a rotation with Hynes likely to be the designated utility on the bench as he can cover dummy-half if needed as well as several spots in the backline.

Koroisau’s relationship with Cleary, Jarome Luai and lock Isaah Yeo in particular from their time together at Penrith edged him ahead of Cook for the No.9 jersey. Cronulla hooker Blayke Brailey was added to the reserves on Tuesday to gain experience of Origin camp, which isn’t the best of signs for Cook’s prospects of representing NSW again.

Luai has retained his spot at five-eighth, despite a strong challenge from Hynes, after he avoided a ban for shoving a touch judge for Penrith in Thursday night’s win over Brisbane. He will pay a fine of $1800 for the incident.

The Blues initially named an alphabetical squad but it has now been updated with jersey numbers assigned.

NSW 2023 Origin I team

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1 James Tedesco
2 Brian To’o
3 Latrell Mitchell
4 Tom Trbojevic
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Jarome Luai
7 Nathan Cleary
8 Tevita Pangai jnr
9 Api Koroisau
10 Payne Haas
11 Tyson Frizell
12 Hudson Young
13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange
14 Junior Paulo
15 Cameron Murray
16 Liam Martin
17 Nicho Hynes
18 Stefano Utoikamanu
19 Stephen Crichton

Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Blues spine: Luai has been under immense pressure to retain the No.6 jersey ahead of South Sydney’s Cody Walker and Hynes in the race to partner Cleary in the halves. 

But after returning to his best in recent weeks and avoiding a ban for the touch judge incident, he will be Nathan Cleary’s halves partner. 

Koroisau and Cook were interchanged last series but with Hynes covering more positions, the Rabbitohs rake is unlucky to miss out. Koroisau started the season slowly for the Wests Tigers but produced three try assists in their “Rout 66” thrashing of the Cowboys on the weekend.

“Damien Cook has played good, Cookie’s played well. We didn’t think the two hooker situation worked for us and we’ve tried it a number of times,” Alexander said.  “We just thought we’d go with one hooker and Api gets the nod.

“Api’s ability out of dummy half to not just play off the back of a quick play-the-ball, probably got him the nod. The fact that Api can play off the back foot.”

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Outside backs: Trbojevic’s hat-trick for Manly on Sunday silenced his critics. He’s a noted big-game performer and when fully fit, one of the most potent attacking forces in the NRL.

“I didn’t really doubt myself, but it does wear down on you a little bit, all the external commentary,” Trbojevic said. “You can’t really escape it these days, it’s just part of it. Something I just had to come to accept. It wasn’t personal doubt.

“It wasn’t hurting me. It was more – you get comments about how your body is feeling and people saying, ‘He’s not right’, when you know you feel good within yourself. That stuff can be a little bit frustrating, but I understand I wasn’t playing well enough, so I guess it comes off the back of it. 

“I’m not going to sugar-coat it and be like, ‘Everyone should praise me when I’m not playing well’, but it is what it is.”

Graham has mounted an irrepressible case for his first Origin jersey with 11 tries for Souths this season after breaking into the representative ranks with the Kangaroos at last year’s World Cup and after being designated as the 18th player, a Blues debut is not far away.

To’o was always a lock for one wing spot while Addo-Carr is back after he was snubbed last year in a selection blunder by the Blues to edge out Graham, Penrith’s Stephen Crichton and Roosters rising star Joseph Suaalii. 

Graham is off the extended bench due to a sternum injury with Crichton called into the squad.

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Forward pack: Eels prop Junior Paulo and Brisbane behemoth Payne Haas were automatic selections but the Blues were stretched for other middle-forward options.

Manly’s Jake Trbojevic (calf) told the Blues he wouldn’t be up to Origin’s intensity after his recent absence while Parramatta veteran Reagan Campbell-Gillard (groin injury) and Penrith’s Spencer Leniu (ruptured testicle) would have been in the squad if available.

Pangai will make his debut after the Blues also considered giving de Belin what would have been a contentious recall to Origin given it would have required NSWRL board approval given his two-year absence from the game while stood down over a sexual assault case which was ultimately dropped after two hung juries.

Newcastle twins Daniel and Jacob Saifiti have Origin experience but have been overlooked with young Wests Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu earning a spot on the extended bench. 

Martin has made a strong comeback from his hamstring injury in the past two weeks while Roosters star Angus Crichton and Manly’s Haumole Olakau’atu were beaten for a back-up role by Young, who has been one of Canberra’s best for the past two seasons. 

with AAP

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