We’re less than a week from the naming of squads for Origin I and neither side is completely locked in yet … At least from the outside.
Of course, there are always small differences in predicted sides but 2019 predicted sides are hugely skewed.
Tedesco, Cook, Mitchell, Addo Carr, Cordner, Friz, Jurbo and Klemmer are in almost every side out there.
Outside of that, it’s mayhem.
Below we look at the big talking points with one weekend of footy between now and the Blues side being named.
Who are the halves?:
It’s impossible to think that Fittler will proceed with the same halves he chose in 2018 despite their series success.
Penrith are running last and their halves are ‘leading’ almost every negative stat.
Cleary is flat chat holding onto his first-grade spot while Maloney is setting missed tackle records.
Who will it be?
Does Fittler stick by his tried and tested? Does he opt for form and give debuts to the high flying Cody Walker and Luke Keary?
Does he turn to a club combination and go with Walker and Reynolds? They are leading the competition.
Does he blood one player and turn to the experienced and in-form Mitchell Pearce?
I’d be shocked, despite reports, if either Panthers half is named.
Keary and Reynolds for me.
Experience or youth in the centres?:
Roberts is out. He’s been relegated to reserve grade and surely can’t be picked.
Leilua looked set for a long talked about Origin debut but injury ended his hopes.
Does Fittler take a risk and name Jarrod Croker or Jack Wighton out of preferred side/position? Does he fast-track Nick Cotric’s Origin debut?
Or does he look back to go forward and name Josh Morris or Michael Jennings?
Morris is in very good form for the Sharks, while Jennings has shown glimpses of the form that made him a NSW mainstay for years.
Croker has been mentioned in Origin discussions for as long as I can remember.
Cotric will play Origin at some stage in his career. He’s been good in the centres over the past few weeks.
Do the Blues shift Blake Ferguson into centres? He played there for many years to great success.
Croker for mine.
Does Fittler unleash Haas?:
A few weeks ago in Origin watch, I stated Vaughan, Klemmer and McLean were absolute certainties to be the Blues bookends… Now I’m not so sure.
Klemmer and Vaughan are locks. No arguments.
McLean looks in serious doubt thanks to the emergence of Broncos monster Payne Haas.
Haas is yet to play 20 NRL games. Usually, that stat would immediately DQ him from discussion.
That said, I think he’s going to be picked.
The Roosters couldn’t contain him. They’re not the first pack to feel the youngsters wrath and they certainly won’t be the last.
The Blues could go with four props. If so Haas is an almost guarantee.
On form, Haas is in. I can’t argue, although I wouldn’t be leading the pitchfork army should he be overlooked.
Do the Blues play a utility off the bench?:
Over the past few seasons, especially in Origin, it’s become almost a given that sides will play a utility off the bench.
Whether that be someone to play minutes to allow players to rest, or someone capable of playing multiple positions in case of injury or lack of impact.
Tyrone Peachey isn’t showing Origin form. He’s coming off the bench for a fairly dire Titans side.
Do the Blues pick a utility? Does Peach’s versatility make him a must select?
Does Fittler have to find a spot for Cody Walker?
Do the Blues opt for four forwards? A big bench can change the game, but it also limits your weapons should it become not so smooth sailing.
Peachey has been trying to do too much on the Gold Coast and hasn’t been able to find his role. This will cost him his spot in my mind.
Mitch Aubusson and John Asiata have been mentioned as possible debutants.
I wouldn’t be shocked if either are named. There will surely be a utility named.
Form or incumbents?:
Crichton played well in last year’s series but has been well outplayed by Cam Murray this season.
Tariq Sims had a debut to forget and is hardly bashing the selection door down.
Meanwhile, Dale Finucane is one of the games most consistent yet underrated forwards.
On form, it’s hard to see any of the Game Three bench players being there in 2019’s Game One (De Belin’s suspension obviously impacts his and Jurbos status here).
Cam Murray surely has to be selected. Prior and Finucane are well ahead of Sims for mine.
Crichton has done nothing wrong and should be selected.
Haas and McLean have one spot between them sewn up.
Murray and Crichton to join utility and Haas/McLean in my side.