After hearing all week about how important the annual City/Country fixture is, it’s not long until we find out just what affect, if any, the game had on Laurie Daley’s Origin plans.
Despite the fact that players such as Beau Scott, Greg Bird, James Roberts, Josh Morris, Trent Hodkinson and Wade Graham, among others, missed the game, the old tagline that the game would remain a NSW selection trial remained.
One thing is for sure, if the game was a genuine Origin selection trial, Aaron Gray would be the first winger picked for the blues, having scored four tries.
Gray is a further outsider to represent NSW than a certain EPL side was to win the title, but as we have seen, the near-impossible isn’t the same as impossible.
That being said, to say I’m confident that Gray will miss Origin selection is an understatement.
Given the amount of scepticism during the week that this game will have any sort of influence on Laurie Daley’s selections, we’ll take a look at the players who may realistically play Origin.
Bryce Cartwright: Perhaps an outside chance of grabbing an Origin bench spot, Cartwright did his chances no harm with his performance on Sunday for City. He’s one of the most exciting, and creative, young backrowers in the game and I have no doubt he’ll play Origin one day. 2016 may be too soon, although given NSW’s inability to trouble the scorer in last year’s decider, perhaps it’s time to look at an alternate attacking option.
Jarrod Croker: Croker is a chance of playing Origin, although I believe it’s down to Jennings, Roberts, Dugan and Morris as to who fills the centre positions. That being said, Croker’s ability to find the line, and kick goals from anywhere, has him an outside chance, but only if there are injuries to the big guns.
James Maloney: Maloney is probably favourite to slot into the NSW five-eighth role after helping the Sharks to a brilliant start to the season. His two late tries for country probably glossed over a less than amazing performance on Sunday but we all know what Maloney can do. With Pearce ruling himself out of Origin selection, Maloney’s experience and goal kicking ability should see him picked.
Josh Mansour: Mansour was outshone by his opposite City winger in Gray, but remains a real chance of joining Blake Ferguson on the wing for the blues. Despite social media’s negative reaction to Gould’s upselling of his Panthers players, there are few that don’t have Mansour in the running for a wing spot.
Aidan Sezer: Earlier in the season I was calling for Sezer to be selected for the blues, but despite a solid effort for city, his form won’t knock the likes of Hodkinson and Maloney out of the running.
Nathan Peats: Although reports indicate Robbie Farah has nothing to worry about in terms of missing selection this series, Peats is a future Origin number nine and put in a good shift for city. He might snag a bench spot, although if Daley is to pick a utility on the bench it’s more likely to be someone with more experience across a variety of positions.
Boyd Cordner: Pretty much an automatic selection for NSW if fit, he only played this game to get some more minutes in his body before the series.
Jack de Belin: Had a solid game for country and is an outside chance for a bench spot.
Tyson Frizell: See above
Paul Vaughan: Another who is an outside chance. His form has dipped since his barnstorming start to the season, but if terms of impact off the bench, his name should be in the discussion.
Cordner will be selected for the blues, with Maloney and Mansour being likely selections, while the likes of Cartwright and Vaughan are right there or there-abouts. Looking at the numbers, I suppose city/country features enough possible fringe-selections to justify the fixture, although unless Gray is the first player picked, it can never really be considered an Origin selection trial.
Updated NSW side I expect to be selected:
1. Josh Dugan
2. Josh Mansour
3. Michael Jennings
4. Josh Morris
5. Blake Ferguson
6. James Maloney
7. Trent Hodkinson
8. Aaron Woods
9. Robbie Farah
10. James Tamou
11. Greg Bird
12. Beau Scott
13. Paul Gallen