It was inevitable but the Origin talk has already begun. Although we are still almost two months away from game one kicking off in Melbourne, the shadow of the interstate series looms large.
Below are the sides firstly that I would choose, and the side that I expect to be picked come Origin One:
NSW Origin Side I think will be picked:
- James Tedesco
- Blake Ferguson
- Josh Dugan
- Michael Jennings
- Tom Trbojevic
- James Maloney
- Mitchell Pearce
- Aaron Woods
- Nathan Peats
- David Klemmer
- Tyson Frizell
- Boyd Cordner
- Jake Trbojevic
- Reagan Campbell-Gillard
- Josh Jackson
- Jordan McLean
Now, much more importantly, the side I would pick to end QLD’s reign:
Fullback: Tom Trbojevic
The first controversial selection as most would expect Tedesco (as do I truth be told) to be the first player picked. Tommy Turbo has been in electric form in an up and down Manly side and should be chosen to line up in his favoured position. We need three routes of attack and Turbo plays as a third half for Manly. He will be there, likely on the wing, but I would build the side around Tommy T.
Wing: James Tedesco
This is risky and if Teddy is picked it will be at fullback, but for mine Tommy Turbo simply cannot be overlooked for the fullback role. That said, you have to have Tedesco in there somewhere. His ability to return the ball and break tackles out wide would provide a real danger, especially outside Euan Aitken on that right-hand side. It won’t happen, but it should.
Centre: Latrell Mitchell
The wildcard in the side but to the honest the only option at left centre. Michael Jennings, Josh Dugan, James Roberts are all options but in my mind, Mitchell is the genuine game-breaker in great form. He scored a worldly try last night against the Bunnies and has been among the Roosters’ best all season. Could very easily switch to wing if needed but I’d get him involved as much as possible.
Centre: Euan Aitken
A huge shock here but if form means anything you can’t overlook the Dragons centre. QLD’s outside backs have given the Blues a bath for many series now so we need someone who can defend and attack rather than just one. Aitken is in red hot (pun intended) form for the ladder leading Dragons and is an absolute no-brainer. Although he represented Scotland previously he’s eligible.
Wing: Josh Mansour
Although he’s not been at his best, Mansour is one of the game’s elite left wingers and should be chosen to play outside Latrell Mitchell. That left edge would worry even the best of defences. The Blues have to find a way to match the QLD elite wingers of Dane Gagai and Valentine Holmes. A Mansour and Tedesco combo is our best hope. Blake Ferguson has been tried and has failed many times at this level. Time to move on.
Five-Eighth: Blake Green
The second major shock of this team but another who, on form, should be a walk up starter. No eligible five-eighth in the competition is playing better football than the Warriors number six. He tackles hard, kicks well, injects when needed and is the ultimate professional. There’s about a 1% chance he’ll be chosen but I’m a big believer in form and Green is flying right now.
Halfback: Nathan Cleary/James Maloney
I need to clarify this. If Cleary is fit and has three games back under his belt I’d pick him. If not then Maloney is the man. Maloney has played very well this season in patches but the QLD’ers have monstered him for years now. There’s zero chance I’d pick Mitchell Pearce. Cleary was in great form pre-injury and if he can return to his best before the series, he has to partner Green.
Prop: David Klemmer
Klemmer was one of the Kangaroos’ best in the World Cup in the front row and has never let his state down previously. The Dogs’ struggles are through no fault of their big man. He has been immense at Origin level previously and should replace teammate Aaron Woods as the first prop picked. Should announce himself as the state’s pack leader in this year’s series.
Hooker: Damien Cook
An absolute no-brainer. As good as Nathan Peats, Apisai Koroisau and Cameron McInnes are, Cook is THE form number nine in the competition. He’s an 80-minute player which means you don’t have to carry a 7-12 minute ‘impact’ player on the bench, he’ll tackle all day and if markers drop their attention for a second, he’s through. The ultimate number nine, he has it all.
Prop: Paul Vaughan
Should have played last year, surely cannot be overlooked this year. Vaughan is one of the best big men in the game. He has a motor few others can match and hits the ball up as intensely in the last minute as in the first. Queensland’s forward pack bossed ours in last year’s decider. Not many have won battles with the Dragons enforcer over the past year and six rounds.
Second Row: Boyd Cordner
Despite injury concerns and a slight drop in form, Cordner will be picked and should captain again. He’s a magical back rower and is capable of lifting his side by leading from the front. There is really no argument against selecting Cordner. The only possible decision is whether to start him or bring from the bench but I’m a firm believer of you start your best side.
Second Row: Tyson Frizell
Another who may be inserted from the bench but I’d start with a back row of Cordner and Frizell. He can play lock but I’d rather him running wide and hammering the likes of Morgan, DCE or Milford for the opening 25-30 minutes. Having a wow of a season for the Red V and has been one of the blues best since he was selected. Automatic selection.
Lock: Jake Trbojevic
There has been a lot of talk about the number 13 role for the Blues and I just don’t understand it. Jake Trbojevic is the man. He’s the best ball playing lock in the game and arguably in the top few defensive players also. A middle of Vaughan, Klemmer and NSW’s very own JT makes for beautiful reading. Can play front row if needed when the bench rotation starts.
Interchange: Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Had a monstrous World Cup campaign for the Kangaroos and should carry that, and strong club form, into the interstate arena. He, Klemmer and Vaughan would form a fearsome front row rotation, with Jake T adding a fourth when needed. A no nonsense footballer, he’s exactly what the Blues’ bench has been crying out for. Should be fed raw meat in the lead up and unleashed for two 10-15 minute spells.
Interchange: Wade Graham
Arguably should be starting, but on form, I’d go with Cordner. Wade was another who had a brilliant World Cup for the Kangaroos and has plenty of rep experience now. He’s a leader at Cronulla and could take over the duties if Cordner does come off for a rest. His kicking game adds a dimension out wide that few other back rowers have. Hasn’t hit peak form this year but must be selected.
Interchange: Jack de Belin
De Belin is in red hot form and that should not be ignored. The Blues have lost momentum from the bench in past series’ and with de Belin, a genuine big minute player, he can be injected at any time and can be counted on. I’d bring him on 25 minutes in to replace Klemmer, with Jake T moving to prop. That middle has to be rock solid at all times as they will see a mountain of traffic.
Interchange: Angus Crichton
The X-Factor. The spark from the bench. No more of this ten-minute utility nonsense, we need four forwards who can change the game. Crichton is an absolute must for mine. He stood up on Thursday in an under-manned Bunnies pack and led the way for his side. He will run all day and can break the line. Another big minute player who can fill in pretty much anywhere up front if needed.
Note: This team was selected before round six, meaning injuries suffered over the weekend were not taken into account.