Origin 1 is drawing ever closer. It feels like the shadow of the interstate rivalry is cast the very second the NRL season kicks off.

Just this week we have heard multiple players linked to Origin debuts or returns with almost all pundits and experts naming their predicted 17s.

Just where the ever unpredictable Brad Fittler will go is anybody's guess but one thing I am near certain on is that there will be changes.

Having lost the decider in 2022, the Blues need new blood. Not wholesale changes but there will be tweaks, including the return of two megastars of the Origin arena.

Early next week, we will look at the Maroon side of things but today we are staying firmly south of the Tweed.

Below are the positions that need to be in for a revamp ahead of the 2023 Origin opener.

This won't cover each individual player but more-so looks at the positions where the changes will most likely be rung.

Let us know in the comments who you believe is struggling to hold onto their spot and who is likely to replace them.

The centres

With the greatest of respects to both Matt Burton and Stephen Crichton, the Blues were forced to run with makeshift centres throughout the 2022 series.

This is due to the absence of Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell through injury, and then later asking to not be selected in Mitchell's case.

If fit, both superstars return to the side without any hesitation.

Latrell Mitchell has lit up the competition in the past month while Trbojevic has been one of Manly's best all season.

Of course injury is always a concern for the Manly fullback but given he has won games for the Blues at both centre and on the wing, the risk is very much worth it.

Burton was especially good in last year's series and could very well see himself named as the bench utility, while Crichton will be locked in a battle with multiple players to nab the second wing spot with Brian To'o.

Trell and Turbo were instrumental in the Blues 2021 series destruction. They wrapped up the series across the opening two games by a total of 76-6.

This despite the series being held in QLD due to Covid restrictions south of the border.

There is a line of thinking where you could name Trbojevic on the wing with Campbell Graham making his Origin debut at centre, but I'd be naming the obvious centre pairing and building around them.

NSW v QLD - State Of Origin: Game 1
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 09: Tom Trbojevic of the Blues and Nathan Cleary of the Blues celebrate after scoring a try during game one of the 2021 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on June 09, 2021 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The bench

Last year's bench for the Origin decider consisted of Damien Cook, Angus Crichton, Junior Paulo and Siosifa Talakai. I dare suggest Fittler got that wrong.

Talakai was thrown on with no definitive plan, or position, and looked all at sea.

Naming a second 80-minute hooker on the bench never made sense to me. I'd offer up Burton, Hynes or a utility player in this role.

Junior Paulo will be there or thereabouts while Angus Crichton's form upon return will dictate his availability.

Paulo's club prop partner Reagan Campbell-Gillard is firming as a must pick, whether that be starting or entering via the bench.

Payne Haas will start after missing Origin 3 last year, with his replacement Daniel Saifiti has likely slipped down the pecking order.

Ryan Matterson can play in the middle or on the edge which puts him right in the reckoning when paired with his irresistible form since returning from suspension.

If Talakai is to retain his spot, it will be as a middle forward, a role he has not not occupied for over 12 months.

The back-row

In my view the front picks itself. Haas and Jake Trbojevic. Don't overcomplicate it. Isaah Yeo retains his lock spot. Easy as!

With Yeo playing 80 minutes at lock, the versatile Cam Murray claims one second row spot. I maintain his best position is in the middle but you have to find a spot for the Bunnies star.

This opens up a second spot, with a potential third option coming off the bench.

Angus Crichton is racing against the clock having not yet played an NRL game in 2023. He was solid for the Roosters NSW Cup team but will need to be out of this world over the next month to be there.

Liam Martin's 2023 has been ruined by injury. His hamstring will likely rule him out of Origin 1. He'll surely need three games at least to prove his fitness.

Keaon Koloamatangi was a near certainty to make his Origin debut prior to his injury. On form he would have walked into a sky blue jumper.

Manly monster Haumole Olakau'atu, Eels Ryan Matterson (although I prefer him as a bench option) and former Origin certainty Tyson Frizell look the most likely to battle it out for one spot.

NRL Rd 23 - Sea Eagles v Sharks
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 20: Haumole Olakau'atu of the Sea Eagles warms up ahead of the round 23 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Cronulla Sharks at 4 Pines Park, on August 20, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


I debated whether or not to include this fourth positon as it seems like a no brainer that you name in form halves Nicho Hynes and Nathan Cleary for Game 1.

That said, the club combination and success on the big stage brings Jarome Luai back into contention. His form has been down on 2022 but has proven he can cut it in both grand finals and at the crunch end of the previous World Cup.

Cody Walker has roared back into contention over the past three weeks while Mitch Moses has plenty of games at six.

Right now you'd have to believe Hynes and Cleary is the option.

Hynes has returned in peak form while Cleary is the NRL's "iceman". Hynes is playing at seven for the Sharks but could very easily shift to the left and play in the six.

If you're going to name Hynes on the bench, then Luai retains his spot here but I'd keep it simple and name the two form halves and trust that Latrell Mitchell or the second dummy half can shift if something goes wrong.