South Sydney hasn’t provided too many stars to New South Wales in recent years, but that appears set to shift in 2019, with four current and two former Bunnies set to earn a call-up.
Dual premiership winner and incumbent Kangaroos’ five-eighth Luke Keary is all but certain to make his Blues debut in Game I of the series, despite growing up in Ipswich. Proof that the old ‘Greg Inglis loophole’ can go both ways.
And his halves partner? Following the shocking form of Nathan Cleary and his Penrith side, former Origin half Adam Reynolds appears set to be recalled three years after his last appearance in a sky blue jersey.
The tattooed Redfern junior’s game has matured under the tutelage of Wayne Bennett, and he’s playing his best football since leading the club to their 21st premiership in 2014. His halves partner that year?
But who could forget about current Souths’ number six, Cody Walker? If he was knocking on the Origin door after his four-try haul against the Warriors, then the door is well and truly off the hinges by the end of Round 9. While he may not feature in the starting side, Fittler has already started stitching the name ‘Walker’ into the back of the number 14 jersey.
Damien Cook will undoubtedly retain his spot at hooker, especially following a huge performance on Sunday against the Cowboys that saw him record three try-assists, two linebreaks, 45 tackles and a try of his own.
Cameron Murray may only be 21 and 90 kilograms, but he plays well above his age, and his weight. Murray is so highly rated by Bennett, it pushed Sam Burgess out of the 13 jersey and onto the right edge. While his speed and agility for a middle forward is eye-catching, the quickness of his play the balls is his most promising feature.
While most assume Murray will be named on the bench with Jake Trbojevic at lock, don’t be surprised to see Murray start the game.
In the opening two games of last year’s series, Fittler started de Belin at lock with Trbojevic on the bench. The perk of having Jake come off the bench is he gets injected around the 20-minute mark, when the opposition is tired, and plays the last hour of the game without a spell. Hence why Murray very well could start in his Origin debut.
Last but not least is former Rabbitoh Angus Crichton, who featured off the bench for the Blues in all three games last year. While his form hasn’t been eye-catching, he can’t be blamed for being overshadowed by the likes of Mitchell, Tedesco, Keary and Cordner, who’re all playing near career-best football, and will feature alongside Crichton in the New South Wales 17.
South Sydney have only had four players run out for the Blues in the last decade, (Nathan Merritt, Adam Reynolds, Damien Cook and Angus Crichton). They’re set to have four in just a single game, and a fifth team member on the field, with Dane Gagai expected to line up on the wing for Queensland.
Just two weeks out from selections, expect a whole heap of red and green sprinkled on a sky blue team sheet.