After last night’s Newcastle-Panthers horror show, where Buderus, Lewis, Jennings and Gidley all left the field with injuries, the depth of the Blues will be sorely tested. Four injuries would decimate any representative side, but even if two of those players fail to don the blue jersey in 3 weeks’ time, the short-sightedness NSW side will suffer more than most.
Around this time last year, NSW origin coach Ricky Stuart proclaimed that he was picking players that would form the spine of the team for future years. By mirroring QLD’s loyalty selection process, he hoped they would also mirror the result – a win for NSW.
Fast forward 12 months and it appears all talk of a spine has gone out the window. Names like Soward and Ennis have fallen out of favour, and instead, Danny Buderus’ name is being thrown around, despite the 34 year old nearing the end of his career. His injury in last nights game may have voided that decision, but nevertheless, it was mooted and that’s enough to suggest the succession plan isn’t in effect. If he is fit, is it worth picking him if next year they will have to go back to the drawing board? As a Tigers supporter, I am more than happy to hear Robbie Farah being suggested, but if chosen, selectors should be prepared stick with him beyond this series.
Granted, Sowards fall into representative wilderness is based on his lack of form compared to prodigal son Todd Carney. Based on 2012 form Carney deserves the spot, but Soward should not be disregarded so easily. His experience in the high pressure situations should be highly valued. No matter who is picked, the selectors should be ensuring these players will be available (excepting injury) for the next few years. Both Soward and Carney – barring disciplinary issues – will.
With Josh Dugan only coming back to the game a few weeks ago, the fullback spot is wide open. I would stay with Dugan, just because he has the fullback experience and has been playing well for Canberra since his return. However, Jarryd Hayne should also be in contention. For some strange reason, there seems to be a push to play him on the wing or in the centres. The experiment doesn’t work, and if the selectors don’t pick Hayne at the back, they shouldn’t pick him at all. If they do select him, he will be a handful once again, especially if he can have a good showing against the Dogs this week.
The battle for the halfback role has been an interesting one. Mitchell Pearce, as the incumbent, should be picked ahead of the host of challengers, despite not firing for the Roosters. He put on a great display in the City vs Country game, and has enough experience to get the job done. The 1-6-7-9 spine is the most important aspect of NSW team and Pearce is vital. He has been there before.
The key to QLD’s 6 from 6, besides names like Lockyer, Smith, Slater and Thurston, is their consistency. The core of the team hasn’t changed in years. Regardless of form, the key positions were always guaranteed, and the selectors’ faith in their playmakers has paid off. Picking the same spine means when someone retires, there is a ready-made understudy with plenty of big game experience i.e. Cronk for Lockyer. Granted, this will push Thurston to five eighth, but he’s versatile enough to make the transition. Why? Because he has been around the team long enough. The Cronk-Thurston combination worked in the ANZAC test and it will work for QLD.
The only other debatable spot will be on the wing with Jharal Yow Yeh out with an ankle injury. Dane Nielsen seems like the most obvious replacement as he has previous Origin experience and plays with Smith, Slater and Cronk every week. However Willie Tonga, Brent Tate, Ashley Harrison, Matt Bowen and Ben Barba are also in contention. I would most like to see Barba – if he can replicate his Bulldogs form, Queensland will be unstoppable.
My dream teams:
1. Dugan/Hayne (depending on fitness)
2. B. Morris
3. Jennings/ Hayne/ Lawrence (depending on fitness)
4. J Morris
12. Creagh/ T. Williams
13. Lewis/Bird (depending on fitness)
Interchange: Woods, Gidley (depending on fitness), Galloway, Hinchcliffe
Interchange: Cherry-Evans, Gillet, Barba (if not starting), Parker
My prediction: QLD 2-1.
WHATS YOUR DREAM TEAM? TELL US BELOW
- City Country: A pointless war (theinfiniteseason.com)