The role of a winger has ever been more important in rugby league.

The back to back to back Premiers, the panthers, build a game-plan on their wide men doing a mountain of work, freeing up their forwards in defence and creating time and space for their creative players as a result.

League leaders the Cronulla Sharks have found success using a very similar formula at the start of the new season.

It is no coincidence that the role of wingers has shifted dramatically in the State of Origin arena also.

Long gone are the days of wingers just standing out wide waiting for attacking opportunities. They're now seen as battering rams, especially early in the sets.

Which is why Brian To'o is the consensus pick as the best winger in the world.

He will be among the first players picked by new Blues coach Michael Maguire in a matter of weeks.

2024 State of Origin Series Launch
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: NSW Blues head coach Michael Maguire poses for a photograph during the 2024 State of Origin Series Launch at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 16, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Who will join him though is up for hot discussion. A discussion we're going to have today.

Below are the front runners, in my view, to partner Brian To'o for Origin 1.

Josh Addo-Carr

If Michael Maguire wants to go with the tried, tested and successful, then the Foxx is the easy choice.

Addo-Carr's last two games have seen a return of four tries, include a hattrick against the Storm.

Last year he and Bradman Best tore the Queensland right edge to shreds, crossing for a combined three tries.

On form, Addo-Carr has only played four games in 2024, and has only played the 80 minutes twice.

His experience and past performances will earn him a lot of grace, rightfully, as you know what you're going to get with him.

JAC lacks the pure size of other options but still possesses lights out speed.

Bulldogs winger Josh Addo-Carr catching the ball at NSW Blues training. (Photo by Joshua Davis)

Again, he has done the job so many times for the Blues, having represented his state 15 times. A 16th cap is very likely if he can stay fit.

Zac Lomax

There is a genuine belief that Lomax has been the form outside back of competition in 2024.

He was leading the Dally M medal count until last week. He now sits just three points behind leader Nicho Hynes.

Lomax has been an absolute revelation since switching to the wing. Let's ignore the irony of him insisting on playing in the centres for another day.

On pure form, Lomax looks the frontrunner.

NRL Rd 16 - Dragons v Raiders
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 03: Zac Lomax of the Dragons celebrates winning the round 16 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium, on July 03, 2022, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Whether or not his shift back into the centres will hurt him is yet to be seen. My belief is that it won't. Or shouldn't.

Lomax is playing supremely well in a very ordinary side. He has routinely been their best player.

There has been talk about Lomax playing Origin for many years now. This feels the most likely for him to make his debut. On the wing.

Lomax is so good in the air, especially in attack, that it would add a weapon that the likes of To'o and Addo-Carr probably can't offer.

I'd be shocked if he wasn't in discussions and at least very, very close to a debut jersey.

Stephen Crichton

I fully expect Crichton to be named in the centres. That said, if Maguire goes a different way in the three and four, Crichton can play on the wing.

He won a Premiership on the wing. Scored the literal title deciding try too.

He's tall, he's well built, he's fast and he can fly. Certainly sounds like a good option one wider than he plays in clubland.

The really obvious choice here is to partner him with his former teammate in To'o on one edge, but given the Origin Three effort of Bradman Best, it's worth a though to shift Crichton.

Tom Trbojevic

Tom Trbojevic will be in the Origin side somewhere. Likely to be in the centres.

That said, if Maguire wants to go with a Crichton/Best combination, Turbo has done the job for the Blues on the wing in the past.

This will sound strange given the fact he plays at fullback for Manly, but I worry re his body on the wing.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Tom Trbojevic of the Blues thanks the crowd after winning the series 2-1 after game three of the 2021 State of Origin Series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Cbus Super Stadium on July 14, 2021 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

It is brutal and the Queenslanders will target the non To'o winger in defence. They'll have to take a lot of hit ups early.

Trbojevic has suffered injuries in recent Origin games. Some due to foul play but also impact injuries.

I absolutely understand the temptation to name him on the wing but right now, if you're going to name Turbo, it's in the centres.

Still a viable option though and one with plenty of upside, especially in the air.

Joseph Suaalii

There's so much talk right now about whether, or not, you pick a player who has already signed for a rival code next year!?

The simple answer is that you pick the best player to win the series, now!

Week to week NRL action, sure, go with the player who is with the club next year. Origin though? Pick your best.

If picked, Suaalii will do the job for the Blues. His past two games for the Roosters have been on the wing. I'd argue it's his best position.

At just under two metres tall and weighing in at right on 100kgs, he has the size, strength and skills to fulfil every requirement of the modern day, Origin winger.

I have him a step behind the other options here but I would not be shocked, nor disappointed, if Suaalii's name was called in a few weeks time.

Truthfully, if he were staying in the code, it would be a matter of when he debuted for the Blues rather than if. Perhaps it is 2024 regardless.

Prediction: I think it will be Addo-Carr but I'd absolutely be naming Zac Lomax. It's time for a change and his form has just been too good to ignore.