We are now only a matter of weeks away from hearing the New South Wales side read out for the Origin One clash in Melbourne.
Some players are starting to announce themselves as a real chance of debuting, while others have fallen away due to injury or a loss in form.
As mentioned previously I believe the Blues will blood five or more players in game one, but in order to blood new players, you have to rely on experienced campaigners to lead the way.
Below are the NSW Blues I consider absolute certainties to be there in sky blue, injury or suspension aside.
The incumbent New South Wales and Kangaroos second rower is in red-hot form right now. He was, by far, the Dragons best in their loss to the Bunnies over the weekend. He has been in the top few second rowers for many years now but only now is he hitting his peak as a footballer. He was the best performer across the series last year for the Blues and I expect him to be literally the first player picked for the 2018 show down.
James Maloney will be there for Origin One, the only question is whether that will be in the number six or number seven jersey. The Penrith marquee man has settled in very well into his new club and role and has been head and shoulders above his competition. The Blues need an experienced head who can dictate the game with his kicking whilst also posing a threat with the running game. Quite frankly Maloney is the only player to fit the role. His halves partner is a guessing game right now but one thing is for sure and that is Maloney’s inclusion.
The captain of the Blues hasn’t been in red-hot form for his club side, the Roosters, but he has done enough to hold his role on the left. Wade Graham has been his closest competitor in recent years but his injury and lack of world-beating form have seen Cordner emerge as the only real option. He’ll likely captain the side again after a more than decent first series as skipper. Maloney and Cordner have played together both for club and state in the past which will be invaluable.
The Manly number 13 would have played a starring role for the Kangaroos in the most recent World Cup if not for an unfortunate injury. As good as Jack de Belin has been, there is no chance that the current Origin and Kangaroo rep will be overlooked for a starting lock role. That said, his ability to play in the front row may be a huge asset later in the game if the big boppers are being overrun. His ball playing ability is second to none in his role. He would really be the game-breaking difference in the series.
There was a time I would have shifted Tedesco out to the wing, or perhaps even overlooked him, but his performance against the Warriors had me reaching for the pen to confirm his name. I suspect it will be the same for Brad Fittler and his coaching staff. No other fullback has had the outstanding season needed to unseat the current Blues fullback. Tommy Turbo, earlier in the season, was well ahead on points, but Tedesco’s last few weeks have been enough to mean he will not be overlooked.
The Almost Certainties
I fully expect Klemmer to be picked although his lack of form and a few silly decisions have taken away his certainty status. He’s an Origin player; aggressive, powerful and experienced, so he’ll be there, but I wouldn’t be knocking down the doors at Blues HQ if he were overlooked for the likes of Vaughan, RCG and co.
Another that I believe will be picked without too much fanfare is the Manly number one. He’s had a few weeks under the form level expected but it’s tough when an entire side and club is depending on you. Especially when that club is struggling on and off the field. Turbo will be picked on the wing or at centre, I have absolutely no doubt, but like Klemmer, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were overlooked. Queensland’s wingers have been the difference in recent series. The Blues need Turbo.
Let us know whether you expect the above to be picked. Did we miss any dead set certainties?