A lot of the confusion and questioning of the NSW Blues side was based on the reasoning behind it. Some players seemed to have been chosen on their form this season, beating out more experienced players, while others were chosen for past performances in the Origin arena, despite a drop in form this year.
A lot of the thought that goes into a team is about who works well with who. While it isn't as simple as 'FIFA Ultimate Team' might make it seem, team chemistry is key. When you're dealing with real humans, emotions have to be taken into account.
What if none of that mattered?
1. James Tedesco
I would have loved to have named Scott Drinkwater as starting fullback in this form NSW Blues Team. Unfortunately for this fake squad and every fullback in real life, James Tedesco has the spot locked down. Leading the Sydney Roosters to sixth position after a slow start, Tedesco leads the comp in tackle breaks and is averaging the 2nd most metres.
2. Reuben Garrick
While it might come as a bit of a surprise from the disappointing Manly Sea Eagles, there is no doubting Reuben Garrick's performance in 2022. In 12 games this season Garrick has seven tries, four try assists, 36 tackle breaks and nine line breaks. Combine that with just under 150m a game, and you have a NSW Blues worthy winger.
3. Moses Suli
Moses Suli over Kotoni Staggs, star of the now top-four Brisbane Broncos? Have I lost my mind? Suli has shown vast improvement with some game time at the St George Illawarra Dragons after being on the outer at the Sea Eagles. With more tackle breaks, try assists, metres and a better tackle efficiency percentage than Staggs, he wouldn't look out of place in State of Origin
4. Stephen Crichton
While Stephen Crichton's form didn't warrant a starting spot, he is in the NSW Blues seventeen. Tall, athletic and able to attack the opposition in any number of scenarios, Crichton is a great centre. Whether it's in the air or with the ball in his hands, he's an attacking weapon.
5. Daniel Tupou
While Josh Addo-Carr had probably earned his spot based on previous performances, there's no doubting Daniel Tupou is more than deserving in 2022. The second-best metre maker at the wing position and the best weapon in the air, Tupou is undoubtedly deserving of a Blues Jersey based on his form this year.
6. Nicho Hynes
Currently third on the Dally M leaderboard, Nicho Hynes has starred at halfback for the Cronulla Sharks. Leading his team to a top-four position before sliding down to seventh recently, Hynes has excelled in his bigger role. If the team was based only on 2022 form, Hynes would be one of the first players picked.
7. Adam Reynolds
Adam Reynolds has been the best halfback in the NRL this season. Taking some time to warm into his Brisbane Broncos Jersey, Reynolds has excelled in his last six weeks of footy. Fifth in try assists Reynolds has been in everything for a Broncos team that has shocked the NRL.
8. Junior Paulo
Another one that was picked in the real team, Junior Paulo has been exceptional for the Parramatta Eels. One of the biggest reasons for their success and premiership hopes in 2022, Paulo is a dynamic prop. His name deserves to be thrown in with Payne Haas and James Fisher-Harris.
9. Apisai Koroisau
While Damian Cook has performed better over the last few weeks than at the start of his season, Apisai Koroisau has been better. Possibly the form hooker in the competition, it must have been difficult to stick with Cook despite his past performances. Slotting in next to a team full of Penrith Panthers, he'd be right at home.
10. Payne Haas
I don't think there's any surprise the best front rower in the world is in the form team. It's no surprise Payne Haas is named to start in the NSW Blues team either. Leading the competition in post-contact metres with the fourth-best metres per game average behind only Dylan Edwards, Taylan May and Tom Trbojevic, Haas is a freak.
11. Cameron Murray
If it weren't for Isaah Yeo, Cameron Murray would be the best lock in the competition by a country mile. While he and Yeo might be 1a and 1b, Murray has shown he can perform in second row in Origin. One of the best defenders, able to play more than 80 minutes, with great leg speed and a top-tier passing game, Murray is one of the best players in the NRL.
12. Haumole Olakau'atu
Missing out on the team possibly due to inexperience and a strong class of back rowers, Haumole Olakau'atu is as deserving as anyone. One of the hardest players to tackle, Olakau'atu has 41 tackle breaks in only 10 games. A damaging ball-runner with a great offload, there is little doubt he'll get a chance at some point if his form continues.
13. Isaah Yeo
Second on the Dally M leaderboard, nobody is in better form than Isaah Yeo. Probably the best player in the best team this season, he's untouchable. Whether he's running or passing the ball, he's crucial to everything the Penrith Panthers do and instrumental to their success.
14. Jack Wighton
While I wouldn't have him in my starting team as Brad Fittler has, there is little question Jack Wighton is in the Blues team somewhere. Disregarding previous NSW performances, Wighton has been great for the Raiders this season. In ten games he has 3 tries, 5 try assists, 7 line break assists and 6 forced dropouts. While the Raiders haven't started the season as they'd have liked, Wighton has been great.
15. David Klemmer
David Klemmer doesn't get the love he deserves. For whatever reason, any chance of him playing State of Origin is unlikely, but his performances every week for the Newcastle Knights warrants it. One of the front rowers in the game, averaging 146m a game, Klemmer is a force through the middle. If the team was picked just on how he performs at club level, there is no doubt he should have been in the conversation.
16. Ryan Matterson
While he's been pushed to a bench role for the Parramatta Eels to make room for their star-studded forward pack, Ryan Matterson has starred in his role. Entering the match either in the middle or on the edge makes no difference. The perfect ball-playing lock, hole-punching edge forward or metre-eater in the middle, Matterson can do it all.
17. Keaon Koloamatangi
Much like Olakau'atu, Keaon Koloamatangi is a handful on the edge of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. 23 tackle breaks, 9 offloads and four tries this season, Koloamatangi is one of the Rabbitohs' best attacking weapons. Whether it's taking a short ball on the try line or an offload in the middle of the field, he's everything you want from a second rower.