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Taking centre stage: The Origin candidates to replace Joseph Suaalii - and a big outsider should be considered

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Roar Rookie
7th June, 2024
9

With Joseph Sua’ali’i out for Origin II, and most likely not going to be recalled for Game 3, the discussion for his replacement has been rampant.

The main candidates thrown up include Matt Burton, Bradman Best, Jesse Ramien, Katone Staggs and Latrell Mitchell.

But it’s quite surprising for anyone who’s watched the Bulldogs play this year that another player hasn’t been mentioned, Jacob Kiraz.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Jacob Kiraz of the Bulldogs scores a try during the round 20 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Canterbury Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium, on July 31, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)Jacob Kiraz scores. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)[/caption]

Average Running metres

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Kiraz 190, Ramien 153, Best 152, Suaalii 135, Staggs and Mitchell 114, Burton 94.

To be almost 40 metres ahead per game than any of the other names mentioned is pretty impressive. It shows just how much effort Kiraz puts in.

In fact, while I didn’t include him on this list, Lomax is right behind Kiraz in all three of these above stats.

When I saw how Lomax played on Wednesday, including his willingness to attack the bombs rather than let them bounce, I was reminded of Kiraz.

The two have very similar styles and Lomax was one of our best in Game I.

Tackle Efficiency

Best 90.8%, Suaalii 88.4%, Staggs and Burton 87%, Ramien 85.8, Kiraz 82.8, Mitchell 77.5%.

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Ok, so Kiraz is way down the list and Best stands out as he showed in Game III last year, but Staggs, Burton and Ramien aren’t hugely better.

Also, the Bulldogs’ defensive style this year is very different and the whole team has lower efficiency than last year despite their overall defence being twice as good as they rely on scrambling to help the small forward pack.

With Mitchell playing fullback I would concede he is also disadvantaged as even Edwards and Tedesco are both around 80%.

Fantasy Point Average

Mitchell 53.9, Burton 51.7, Kiraz 47.6, Suaalii 41.8, Best 41.7, Ramien 35. 9, Staggs 34.2.

I threw this in as it compiles a much bigger range of stats than I was willing to trawl through such as try assists, line-break assists and goal-kicking.

Stats like those give a big boost for playmakers like Burton and Mitchell but neither of them would be playing in the halves or fullback role.

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Top of the stats for centres or wingers? You guessed it, Kiraz again.

If you picked him in your fantasy team at the start of the year you’d be pretty happy, but would probably prefer him not to miss a game through Origin.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Bradman Best of the Blues celebrates scoring a try during game three of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on July 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Bradman Best celebrates scoring a try. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Verdict?

If Bradman Best were fit, I’d have no qualms with him slotting back in as he did a great job last year, but current expectations are for round 16. Burton would certainly do a decent job and his utility value wouldn’t be out of place.

Mitchell has played brilliantly in past Origins but seeing footage of him unable to get across the field in defence a few times makes me doubt his fitness.

I honestly wouldn’t mind him in the starting side if Burton were on the bench as a backup if he did struggle. Ramien and Staggs may offer a certain X factor but overall aren’t too impressive based on these stats.

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Personally, of course, I think Kiraz would be perfect for Origin. He makes more runs than any player in the comp apart from Drinkwater and Edwards and is fit enough to do it all game when the team is under pressure.

His tackle and line break stats show that this isn’t just grunt work though, he is a constant threat and has been one of the Bulldogs’ most dangerous attacking players all year.

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Many will say Origin isn’t about stats, but anyone watching Kiraz play all year doesn’t need to know his stats to know how good he has been.

He has played a mix of wing and centre and even played one brilliant half-game at fullback. I think when Taafe came off injured.

He has great versatility and does the work of a backrower in attack out of his own half.

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Sorry if I missed any other players not mentioned by the pundits – any other hats you’d like to throw into the discussion?

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