With the State of Origin series approaching, seemingly every person with access to social media has named their side. Although the likes of Tyson Frizell and Boyd Cordner appear in all serious team selections, there seems to be a number of positions up for grabs.
A few injuries to front-runners such as Josh Mansour seems to have blown the race wide open for a spot in the interstate contest.
Each week in the lead up to Origin One we will take a look at the contenders and hopefully answer a few selection questions. Today we will look at the Blues, with the Maroons to feature tomorrow.
One player who will not be lining up for the Blues in the 2018 series is the incumbent halfback, Mitchell Pearce. A chest injury has all but ended his season meaning New South Wales will be searching for a new number seven. It was 50/50 as to whether he would be selected again following a poor record at rep level but unfortunately, injury has ended the discussion early.
In my view, prior to this Thursday night, Aaron Woods’ name was one that was not in the Origin selection talk. That all changed with a massive 239 metres against the highly fancied Roosters. Sometimes metres made stats are deceptive but, on the night, Woods was a monster. Arguably the first prop picked in recent seasons for the Blues, he has a fight on his hands to hold onto his starting spot, but Thursday’s performance will do no harm.
The Number Nine Jersey
Arguably the most ‘open’ of the starting jerseys is the number nine. Damien Cook, Cameron McInnes and Apisai Koroisau look locked in a three-way battle for the position after Nathan Peats was ruled out for six weeks. As it stands I have Cook ahead on points but with talk of two number nines being chosen, you’d tend to think McInnes will start with Cook offering more impact off the bench. This is one to watch.
A player who has been selected as the bench utility for two series in a row, Bird’s move to the Broncos may actually hinder his chances in 2018. He is yet to really lock in a defined role which means his best has not been on show. He was solid last week but almost un-sighted against the Storm. Will need a massive next few weeks to put his name in lights, but as mentioned above, it may not matter regardless.
Seen by most as the young saviour of the Blues, it looks as though the talented Panthers number seven is at long odds to be fit in time for the first game of the series. An MCL injury has him listed to return in seven weeks which would not provide him enough time to return to full fitness in time. We will keep a close eye on his recovery as his fitness will go a long way determining the make-up of the NSW halves.
This time just 48 hours ago I would have rolled my eyes if you had mentioned Moses as a potential Origin candidate. He has been well below his best in 2018 and looked as though he had almost forgotten which way was forward. What a difference 80 minutes can make. He absolutely towelled up the Sea Eagles and outplayed potential Origin halfback Daly Cherry-Evans with ease. A little down the pecking order as it stands but two or three more big games and his name will be right there once again.
With every passing week, the odds shorten on a potential Latrell Mitchell Origin debut in 2018. Arguably the form, eligible, centre of the competition, I would not hesitate in blooding the potential match winner at left centre. He has the speed, flair and strength to bust a game wide open and looks ready-made for rep footy. It’s a huge ask for a young player but at some point, you have to unleash him. That time is now.
Mitchell’s teammate at the Roosters, Blake Ferguson, is arguably in career best form. I originally had him missing my Origin side, but following the injury to Josh Mansour, I’m not sure you can overlook him. He had his issues in last year’s camp but Brad Fittler will be all over that. A risky selection being that he has been spanked in a few Origin games in a row, but form matters, and there are few, if any, in better form right now.
Check back next week as we take a look an in-depth look at the race for the Blues halves positions as well as the top contenders for the ever important number one jersey.