Former Blues coach Laurie Daley has picked his New South Wales side for next week’s State of Origin opener, selecting a number of surprising names to make their debuts on the big stage.
Speaking on Big Sports Breakfast, Daley named four potential rookies to showcase themselves in Adelaide on November 4, with the centre position giving him the most trouble for the Blues.
Parramatta captain Clint Gutherson narrowly missed taking home the Dally M Medal this season and would find himself beside the man that pipped him for the honour.
“In the centres this is where I struggled a little bit but I wanted to find a position for one bloke. I’ve got Jack Wighton at centre and I’ve also got Clint Gutherson, I’ve got Gutherson playing centre just ahead of Zac Lomax and Stephen Crichton,” Daley said.
After a stellar performance that won him the Clive Churchill Medal, Daley said adding Storm speedster Ryan Papenhuyzen was a must.
“I had to find a position for Ryan Papenhuyzen, I couldn’t put him in at fullback and Gutherson had to be in the squad somewhere as well so I wanted to try and find a position for both of those players, they’ve had massive years.”
“I’ve gone for Keary given the fact that he has been probably the dominant No.6 for a number of years,” he said.
“I could have made a case for Jack Wighton. I think if there were more centres available I probably would have gone Jack because I think Jack deserves an opportunity at No.6, but to fit Jack in and another No.6 in I went with Keary.
“There’s no denying that Cody Walker was the best player in the last six to eight weeks of the comp but I just think Keary deserves an opportunity.”
“(Paulo) is a very good player. It gives them a bit of size, leg speed, ball-playing ability as well,” he said.
“Then you’ve got Jake Trbojevic, he’s not the same size as Junior Paulo but he’s got a bit of ball-playing ability and you know what you’re going to get with Jake. You don’t have to worry about him.
Falling into the No.13 jumper is Storm star Dale Finucane after his promising display in the Grand Final.
“I thought (Finucane) was excellent in the grand final. You just know what you’re going to get from Dale Finucane and he’s a bigger body than Cam Murray so you’d look to probably start Finucane.
“Get him out there, get him involved early and then bring Cam Murray on early and let him play the rest of the game. Then use Finucane maybe as one of your rotations for your No.8 or No.10 position.”
Despite Queensland’s ongoing struggles with injury and the Blues dominance across the last year, Daley believes it won’t be a one-sided affair.
“I think it’ll be tighter than most people think,” he said.
“The last couple of years I’ve been confident NSW would win, but there’s just something about Wayne Bennett and Mal Meninga being back in charge of this Queensland team… and Queensland being underdogs. I don’t think it’ll be three-nil, I think it’ll be a lot tighter than most of us think.”
LAURIE DALEY’S NSW TEAM:
2. Nick Cotric
3. Clint Gutherson
4. Jack Wighton
6. Luke Keary
8. Junior Paulo
9. Damien Cook
10. Jake Trbojevic
11. Boyd Cordner
12. Tyson Frizell
13. Dale Finucane
14. Cameron Murray
15. Payne Haas
17. Ryan Papenhuyzen