SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: Luke Keary of the Blues during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at Moore Park on June 19, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Knights legend Matty Johns believes there’s two rookies set to challenge both James Maloney and Nathan Cleary for selection at the halves position for this upcoming Origin series.

Last year, both Maloney and Cleared helped guide NWS to victory, although the first five rounds this season their form at club level hasn’t been overly convincing.

The halves will need to figure out a way to get Penrith back on the winners’ list, which will help guarantee their selection in Brad Fittler’s Blues outfit.

“Penrith have got to start to win. Nathan and James Maloney have really, from this week, got to fire some shots,” Johns said on the Fox League podcast.

“I would say in Freddy’s mind he’s going if my players who did it for me last year are in good form, and they’re showing they are in good form, I’ll pick them.”

Johns says pending the form of the last year’s NSW halves, there are two players in Luke Keary and Cody Walker pushing for Origin selection as reliable play-makers.

“Keary is undeniable. And the way Cody Walker is playing now it’s starting to look as if they could be a fair combination,” Johns said.

“Our most successful period in State of Origin history, no matter what period you look at, is what you’ve got key players who have key combinations in the side.

“I think Keary and Walker could work together … but a key combination of that is Cody Walker and Damien Cook. That’s a key combination. So there’s some really good combinations in that team.

“The hard one for Freddy to leave out would be Nathan (Cleary). My gut feel is Nathan will have to be injured not to be picked.

“If they picked it tomorrow I have no doubts it would be Keary and Cleary.”


  1. I do really rate both these players and think the halves will be Keary and Cleary but love the Walker shout. He plays regularly with Cook, has not only played for but captained the indigenous side, and just wouldn’t look out of place. I thinks it’s a fair shout to have Walker 14th man as that utility who can jump in the halves, jump in the backs and maybe in hooker against Ben Hunt and bring something special off the bench.
    I don’t think Walker would pair well with keary in the halves as both a ball runners and don’t exactly lead them team around the park cause in their respective teams Adam Reynolds and Cooper Cronk do the most of the talking and kicking. But Cleary is that kind of player that’ll talk and do the kicking job and allow either of these two to run and create

  2. MY NSW team (if picked today)
    Addo Carr
    Adam Reynolds
    J. Turbo

    Ryan James
    Cam Murray
    Cody Walker

  3. Good side but I believe NSW should have 4 forwards on the bench. If Reynolds Gets Injured Keary to half and Mitchell to 5/8. Or if Keary gets injured Mitchell covers that as well as well as fullback. So I think the backs cover themselves if injury occurs during a game.

    Personally I think two props and two second rowers/utility forward on a bench. Its in the engine room where the gas runs out.💪🎱👍

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