State of Origin - NSW v QLD: Game 2
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 11: Tino Fa'asuamaleaui of the Maroons and Payne Haas of the Blues scuffle during game two of the 2020 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on November 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

We're six rounds into the competition, and the cream of the crop is beginning to stand out above the rest of the pack. The likes of Penrith, Melbourne, South Sydney and Parramatta are standing tall, whilst the Cowboys, Tigers, Bulldogs and Brisbane are sitting low on the ladder.

Just a tick over seven weeks out from State of Origin, it's that time of the year where the word 'bolter' gets thrown out there, and the Origin mainstays get questioned. After a 2020 series that saw a whopping 19 players debut across three games, expect a lot less players to earn their maiden Origin jerseys, with a host set to return to their respective sides after an injury ravaged past year.

There's guaranteed changes to both teams, with the series returning to its regular format, after the COVID-affected predecessor saw an end of season Origin, spanning across just three weeks, and featuring pre-picked squads of 25.

There shouldn't be any debutants for Queensland in Game I, at this stage at least. After debuting 14 new faces last year, a large chunk of the squad will be in their second series for the state. While AJ Brimson has been impressive, Kalyn Ponga's return has reminded the rugby league community how good he can be, and should slot straight back in at fullback. Brimson will be a beyond handy utility for them.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05: Kalyn Ponga of the Maroons passes during game one of the 2019 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on June 05, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Harry Grant will fight off Reed Mahoney for the starting hooker role after a phenomenal Game III debut from the bench, while David Fifita will slot straight into the left-edge back-row spot for the Maroons.

Whilst he's played exclusively second-row for Penrith this season, expect Kurt Capewell to once again start in the centres, a position the state is certainly short on.

The rest of the 17 picks themselves. Xavier Coates will return on the wing as will the halves combination of Munster and Cherry-Evans. There's a battle in the front-row, with Lindsay Collins beating out Moeaki Fotuaika, and Jai Arrow will deliver that energy off the bench that he's brought to South Sydney in 2021.

Meanwhile in New South Wales, they'll once again fail to pick a club centre in their centres, though it'll be to much greater effect this time around. Clint Gutherson is gone from the side, with Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic the new three-quarters.

Zac Lomax is unlucky not to debut and Daniel Tupou will miss out despite playing well for the Roosters, but Brian To'o is a gun. He's pledged his allegiance to Australia, and is eligible for Brad Fittler's men.

Jack Wighton moves to five-eighth, he's the reigning Dally M medallist and deserves a crack at his preferred position. Jarome Luai is another unlucky to miss selection, but there's certainly question marks over whether he's an 'Origin player'.

Daniel Saifiti is a sure thing in the starting line-up, with a mix-up in the forward pack this year. Jake Trbojevic moves into the front-row to allow Cam Murray to start and continue that dynamic combination with Damien Cook. Boyd Cordner's absence hands Angus Crichton another start alongside Tyson Frizell.

Junior Paulo and Payne Haas are massive bodies on the bench, and Isaah Yeo has that Origin aura around him - runs the tough lines and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

The bench utility is a tricky one to fill. Do you pick a versatile back-rower, a back? If fit, Kotoni Staggs is perfect for the role, able to slot into the backline or halves, and could even play back-row at a pinch. Victor Radley has been on the cusp for a long time now as well, but Ryan Papenhuyzen is second in the Dally M count for a reason.

NRL Rd 12 - Broncos v Sharks
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Kotoni Staggs and Xavier Coates of the Broncos look dejected looks dejected after their team loses the round 12 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks on July 31, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

People are quick to forget that 'Paps' has played the bench utility role before, coming off the pine in 13 of his first 16 NRL games back in 2019. His speed around the ruck would be deadly against tiring forwards, and could become a game-turning x-factor for the Blues.

While there's six games to go before the respective squads are announced, players outside these 17's have their work cut out for them if they are to make Brad Fittler or Paul Green's sides. Every year there's bolters, it's time for some to emerge from the woodwork.


  1. James Tedesco
  2. Josh Addo-Carr
  3. Latrell Mitchell
  4. Tom Trbojevic
  5. Brian To'o
  6. Jack Wighton
  7. Nathan Cleary
  8. Jake Trbojevic
  9. Damien Cook
  10. Daniel Saifiti
  11. Angus Crichton
  12. Tyson Frizell
  13. Cameron Murray


14. Ryan Papenhuyzen
15. Junior Paulo
16. Payne Haas
17. Isaah Yeo


  1. Kalyn Ponga
  2. Valentine Holmes
  3. Kurt Capewell
  4. Dane Gagai
  5. Xavier Coates
  6. Cameron Munster
  7. Daly Cherry-Evans
  8. Josh Papalii
  9. Harry Grant
  10. Christian Welch
  11. David Fifita
  12. Felise Kaufusi
  13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui


14. AJ Brimson
15. Jaydn Su'A
16. Jai Arrow
17. Lindsay Collins



  1. 1 Tedesco
    2 Papenhuyzen
    3 Mitchell
    4 Wighton
    5 Trbojevic
    6 Walker/Luai
    7 Cleary
    8 Haas
    9 Cook
    10 Vaughan
    11 Crichton
    12 Frizell
    13 Trbojevic

    14 Murray
    15 Paulo
    16 Saifiti
    17 Yeo

    18 JackBird
    19 ClintonGutherson
    20 BradmanBest
    21 ZacLomax

  2. 1 RTS
    2 DWZ
    3 Manu
    4 Hiku
    5 Rapana
    6 DylanBrown
    7 ShaunJohnson
    8 JFH
    9 BrandonSmith
    10 Bromwich
    11 Bromwich
    12 Harris
    13 Tapine

    14 Nikorima
    15 JWH
    16 NAS
    17 Hamlin-Uele

  3. 1 Will Hopoate/ DWZ
    2 David Fusitua
    3 Siosifa Talakai / Waqa Blake / Moses Suli
    4 Konrad Hurrell / Tesi Niu / Brenko Lee
    5 Daniel Tupou
    6 Kotoni Staggs
    7 Tui Lolohea

    8 Addin Fonua-Blake
    9 Siliva Havili / Sione Katoa / Manasa Fainu
    10 Sio Siua Taukeiaho / Taniela Paseka
    11 Tevita Pangai -Jnr / David Fifita / Felise Kaufusi
    12 Sitili Tupouniua / Tyson Frizell
    13 Jason Taumalolo

    14 John Asiata
    15 joe Ofahengaue
    16 Ben Murdoch-Masila
    17 Moeaki Fotuaika

    18 George Jennings
    19 Sione Katoa (sharks)
    20 Tevita Tatola
    21 Tevita Funa
    22 Andrew Fifita
    23 Haumole Olakau’atu
    24 Keaon Kolomatangi
    25 Stefano Utoikamanu
    26 Matt ikuvalu
    27 Peter hola
    28 Eli Katoa
    29 Starford To’a

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