State of Origin 2014- New South Wales Blues

Fullback

Candidates: Jarryd Hayne, Josh Dugan, Brett Stewart

Sam Dasey: Jarryd Hayne- Although a Brett Stewart fan, I think the X-Factor that Hayne offers would give the blues more potency in attack, while he is still reliable under the high ball when tested. Showing the form that took the Eels to a Grand Final in 2009, Hayne would keep the Queensland side second guessing. Dugan offers an X factor as well, however is less consistent and reliable than Hayne.

Matt Pritchard: Josh Dugan is the incumbent and I get the feeling that Jarryd Hayne will play on the wing in game one.  It’s a remarkable return for the ex-Raider who was reinventing his career at the Dragons at this time last year.

Who I think selectors will pick: Jarryd Hayne- The temptation is to shift Hayne to a wing and play Dugan at fullback, however for him to make an impact, Jarryd needs to be somewhere he can get more involved. His injury that will keep him out till selection time may test the patience of Laurie Daley and co, however.

Wings

Candidates: Brett Morris, Daniel Tupou, William Hopoate, Jorge Tafua, Pat Richards, James McManus, Jarryd Hayne

Sam Dasey: Really, there is no competition on one side of the field, Brett Morris having locked up a wing spot already. The other side however is anyone’s guess. After stand out performances from Tupou and Hopoate on the weekend for City, both of those players would be in Laurie Daley’s radar, while Pat Richards’ goal kicking would make him a real asset for the Blues’ side. I would pick Hopoate, who seems calm under pressure, a strength needed when playing top level football

Matt Pritchard: Brett Morris had a very good performance in the Kangaroos victory over the Kiwis in the ANZAC Test so he’s one player assured of a spot in the starting line-up.  Will Hopoate was preferred prior to his stint away from the game but hasn’t captured the same attention he did when at Manly.  You couldn’t go wrong with Taufua either in great form at Manly.  But Jarryd Hayne will be the second winger if New South Wales go with Dugan at the back.

Who I think selectors will pick: Brett Morris and possibly Hopoate, though I say this with no real conviction. Incumbent James McManus will not retain his position.

Centres

Candidates:  Josh Morris, Michael Jennings, Jamal Idris, Jarryd Hayne

Sam Dasey: Morris and Jennings. Both players performed well for NSW last year and the Blues, who are looking to build on squads from previous years, will want to keep the same side where possible. There is an injury concern over Jennings however. If he goes down, Idris is in fine form and could fill in admirably.

Matt Pritchardthere’s probably not much stock for New South Wales to choose from.  Michael Jennings and Josh Morris pick themselves in the centres.  Jamal Idris has been good at Penrith this year and isn’t too far away from reaching top form.  Selectors may also consider Jorge Taufua to play at centre.

Who I think selectors will pick: Morris and Jennings. If Jennings is fit selectors have a number of options, however I think Daley would be tempted to shift Hayne (who is in line for all positions mentioned to this point, showing great versatility) to centre, and putting Dugan to fullback.

Five-Eighth

Candidates: James Maloney, Josh Reynolds, Jarrod Mullen, John Sutton

Sam Dasey: I would have Josh Reynolds at five eighth.Maloney hasn’t been in great form and now having picked up an injury, should not keep his place in the side. Reynolds lacks the kicking prowess of Mullen, although his work ethic is outstanding, and he is everywhere on the field, the real working class player that NSW could use.

Matt Pritchardthe halves combination has been far from settled for the Blues.  I think Laurie Daley is adamant that he doesn’t want to change last year’s pairing.  John Sutton must be close to selection with all his NRL experience but Josh Reynolds for me is the pick.  Not only very talented but will put up a good fight.

Who I think selectors will pick: Josh Reynolds. Reynolds’ attitude is a key ingredient to why the Bulldogs have such success in 2014. He is just everywhere, and this has him primed to play Origin. His nickname “grub” means he can get under the Queenslanders skin and I think these are qualities the selectors will find too endearing to overlook.

Halfback

Candidates: Mitchell Pearce, Adam Reynolds, Tyrone Roberts, Trent Hodkinson

Sam Dasey: Jarrod Mullen hasn’t been at full pace due to a hamstring complaint, but has still managed to steer his team valiantly around the park, and was outstanding for the Country side. His kicking game in the last year or two has come on in leaps and bounds, and a strong kicking game is something NSW have lacked in previous years. The forty twenty he kicked for Country to get his team into attacking position showed his ability to make the big play at the right time. With his kicking, and Reynolds running, the halves would cause headaches for the Maroons defence.

Matt Pritchard: Mitchell Pearce will play at halfback.  Adam Reynolds is a very good player, but playing at Suncorp Stadium in game one isn’t probably the best option.  If the Blues lose the series by game two there will be a change for game three and his name will likely come up.

Who I think selectors will pick: Mitchell Pearce. Daley will have seen no extraordinary reason to change up the halfback spot, something he has stated his reluctance to do anyway. I still think the verdict is out on him being the long term option. Adam Reynolds piled on the pressure last year but hasn’t been playing to the same standard this year in a less effective Bunny’s side, and his ship may have sailed. After leading his side to a premiership last year, Pearce probably deserves a crack.

Props

Candidates:  Aaron Woods, James Tamou, Andrew Fifita, Trent Merrin, Aiden Tolman, Paul Gallen

Sam Dasey: Aaron Woods, Paul Gallen. While I think the Blues will shift Gallen back out of the front row to lock, I have always liked the blues captain playing up front, forcing him to push through the middle. He is sometimes guilty of trying to fit in the back line when playing in the second row, where as he knows nothing but go forward when playing prop. Aaron Woods was quiet in his debut last year, but has stepped up tenfold for his club this year and having a bit of Origin experience under his belt, will be ready to rip in to the Queensland pack.

Matt Pritchard: Paul Gallen will lead the side from prop.  James Tamou is the other logical selection.  Aiden Tolman wouldn’t look out of place with his workman-like efforts.  Trent Merrin likely to start from the bench.

Who I think selectors will pick: Aaron Woods, James Tamou. Tamou managed to keep his spot in the Australian side, despite being slightly down on impact for the Cowboys this year. Having watched his former Australian front row partner Andrew Fifita lose his Kangaroos’ spot, he has said he has fired up to make sure he doesn’t face the axe as well. This may have been the tonic he needed to find his best form.

Hooker

Candidates: Robbie Farah, Nathan Peats, Michael Ennis

Sam Dasey: If fit Robbie Farah is a sure thing for this position. He almost outplayed his opposite number Cameron Smith last year, no easy feat. However, there are concerns that he will not be fit for the first game, which means Peats and Ennis will be fighting out for the spot. While Ennis has been there before and is playing well, I would give Peats a crack, and make him the understudy to Farah. He is young, giving NSW a look at the future post Farah, and the experience would do him the world of good.

Matt Pritchard: with Robbie Farah under an injury cloud, Michael Ennis is my pick.  You want someone going into Origin with form and game time.  Ennis’ other advantage is that he will niggle and make the Maroons feel uncomfortable.

Who I think selectors will pick: If Farah is fit, he will play, if not, I think Ennis’ experience will win him the hooking role.

Second Row

Candidates: Ryan Hoffman, Greg Bird, Beau Scott, Tariq Sims Robbie Rochow, Trent Merrin, Anthony Watmough, Boyd Cordner

Sam Dasey: Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Watmough for mine. The second row really is an area of strength for the blues side with some great players waiting their turn.

Matt Pritchard: Greg Bird and Boyd Cordner.  Bird is very much like Ennis in the way he plays and will get under the skins of the Maroons.  Cordner is a future captain of the State at twenty-one years old.  Luke Lewis and Greg Bird could play either lock or second row.

Who I think selectors will pick: Ryan Hoffman and Greg Bird, both performed well last year and have been playing well for their respective clubs and with Paul Gallen likely to switch to lock, Bird will shift to second row.

Lock

Candidates: Paul Gallen, Greg Bird, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis

Sam Dasey: Greg Bird would be my lock, real tough nut who loves to do the hard yards and loves to belt the opposition. Where he plays may change, but he will always be picked in the side.

Matt Pritchard: Luke Lewis for mine is built for Origin and despite a lack of game time should be named either in the second row or at lock.

Who I think selectors will pick: Paul Gallen will likely be shifted back to his regular lock position for the Blues, however considering his recent performances at the front, I disagree with the shift.

Interchange

Sam Dasey: Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner, Trent Merrin, James Tamou

Matt Pritchard: Trent Merrin, Andrew Fifita, Aaron Woods, Adam Docker.  Adam Docker is my bolter for the Blues side as he could punish in defense in the middle part of the game when the starting forwards have a break.

Who I think selectors will pick: Trent Merrin, Andrew Fifita, Boyd Cordner, Anthony Watmough

Adam Bagnall:  the QLD team picks itself with one or two players on the bench uncertain. However the NSW team contains plenty of question marks. I would go with a solid spine of Josh Dugan at fullback, Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson in the halves and skipper Robbie Farah at hooker. Jarryd Hayne has played his best for NSW at wing and will partner Brett Morris on the flanks. A centre pairing of Josh Morris and Michael Jennings is excellent, and I’d go with two new halves. Mitchell Pearce has failed at Origin level time and time again and James Maloney’s form in 2014 should cost him his spot.

My two props are James Tamou and skipper Paul Gallen with a back row pairing of Greg Bird and Luke Lewis who plays his first match of the year this weekend,  Trent Merrin at lock. Merrin has great footwork and is an excellent offloader and needs to start the match. On the bench I would have Tony Williams, who can do anything, particularly in the closing stages of the first half when the QLD forwards are tired, and he is joined by the reliable Aiden Tolman, a ball playing backrower in John Sutton and a bolter in Jack De Belin who is very tough and hits hard in defence. I have ignored seasoned players in Kurt Gidley, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Watmough because the results in Origin speak for themselves, these players have been given too many chances. I would add Beau Scott as 18th man as he is very physical and can play in the forwards or at centre if injury strikes in the lead up.

State of Origin 2014- Queensland Maroons

Fullback

Candidates: Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Anthony Milford

Sam Dasey:  Greg Inglis just can’t be ignored, and neither can the form slump of Billy Slater. Milford is an exciting prospect, but has too much in front of him in the way of talent to yet force the selector’s arm.

Matt Pritchard: Despite form problems with Billy Slater, he is fullback as Mal Meninga looks to retain the winning line-up.

Who I think selectors will pick: Billy Slater. I think the urge must be there to switch Inglis, but I can’t see Meninga giving in to that desire.

Wings

Candidates: Darius Boyd, Brent Tate, Josh Hoffman, Billy Slater

Sam Dasey: The strength of the Maroon side is just so strong, and with Inglis shifted to fullback in my side, Slater can slot in on the wing, the place that he debuted his Queensland. Boyd’s form has been questioned, somewhat unfairly in my opinion, and he retains his spot.

Matt Pritchard: Brent Tate will be selected in his last Origin series along with Darius Boyd who always seems to find something more at this level.

Who I think selectors will pick: Boyd and Tate

Centres

Candidates:  Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Brent Tate

Sam Dasey: Hodges and Tate would fill my centre positions. Hodges is the best centre in the world when fit and should have played plenty of matched by the time Origin rolls around. Tate has been a strong performer for the Maroons, and can cover Inglis’ shift to fullback admirably in his club role as a centre.

Matt PritchardJustin Hodges is back at full fitness and will be selected at centre alongside Greg Inglis.

Who I think selectors will pick: Hodges and Inglis.   

Five-Eighth

Candidates: Cooper Cronk, Jonathon Thurston

Sam Dasey: Thurston will play at six like last year, the position he plays at club level. You can’t switch the best player in the world. First selected in the side.

Matt PritchardJonathon Thurston despite an injury scare in the Cowboys win over Brisbane will play six.

Who I think selectors will pick: Jonathon Thurston.

Halfback

Candidates:  Cooper Cronk, Daly Cherry Evans

Sam Dasey: You know you are a good side when the NRL’s form player can’t be fitted into the starting side, and that is the position Cherry-Evans finds himself in. Cronk is still an outstanding player and it is just so hard to move him out. But I am going to do just that. Daly-Cherry Evans is my pick for half, his form just too much to ignore. Out of the two, I think Cooper offers more options from the bench, and with that the only way to fit both in the side, that is what I am going to do.

Matt Pritchard: Queensland selectors won’t drop Cooper Cronk to the bench even though Daly Cherry-Evans is the form halfback in world rugby league.  Cherry-Evans will be waiting in the wings for another season.

Who I think selectors will pick: Cooper Cronk. While it may be just as tempting for mal to make the switch, I can’t see him removing the Kangaroo halfback from the starting side.

Props

Candidates:  Nate Myles, Matt Scott, Martin Kennedy, Dave Taylor, Jacob Lillyman, Ben Hannant, Brenton Lawrence

Sam Dasey: Matt Scott and Nate Myles will start for Queensland, the Myles v Gallen contest always a mouth-watering prospect. These two just provide so much go forward up the middle and will be picked. Brenton Lawrence has been deservedly talked about, with his speed as a prop a wonderful asset for a team.

Matt PritchardMatt Scott has earned a spot in the Maroons side after a Man of the Match performance against Brisbane.  Nate Myles will partner him.  Brenton Lawrence will get his chance on the bench.

Who I think selectors will pick: Matt Scott and Nate Myles should continue their Prop roles for the Maroons side. There is an option to switch Myles to second row, but I can’t see any reason why this would happen.

Hooker

Candidates: Cameron Smith, Matt Ballin, Andrew McCullough

Sam Dasey: Really, there are no other contenders for this role, unless Smith goes down with injury.

Matt Pritchard: Smith will captain the side but Andrew McCullough is fast establishing himself as the future hooker for Queensland with his week in week out consistency.

Who I think selectors will pick: Cam Smith.

Second Row

Candidates:  Matt Gillett, Ben Te’o, Chris McQueen, Josh Papalii, Sam Thaiday

Sam Dasey: Chris McQueen and Sam Thaiday would be my starters. Thaiday had to pull out of the Kangaroos team with a calf complaint, but will be good to go come Origin time. Josh Papalii is in danger of losing his spot on the bench let alone gaining a starting role that many had him pencilled in for last year. His form has been nowhere near as consistently destructive this year for Canberra, though everyone lifts in the Origin arena.

Matt Pritchard: Matt Gillett for mine is one of the inform second row forwards running around in the competition and should start alongside Sam Thiaday.

Who I think selectors will pick: Chris McQueen and Sam Thaiday especially the latter. Thaiday is a tremendous player and bleeds Maroon. Chris McQueen was a good find for Queensland and will serve them well.

Lock

Candidates:  Corey Parker, Matt Gillett

Sam Dasey: Corey Parker made the position his own last year, after being a long time interchange player for Queensland. He is in fine club form again this year, and earned a bench spot for the roos.

Matt Pritchard: Corey Parker is the logical choice at lock forward.

Who I think selectors will pick: Corey Parker is a safe bet for the position.

Interchange

Sam Dasey: Cooper Cronk, Matt Gillett, Brenton Lawrence and Ben Te’o

Matt Pritchard: Daly Cherry-Evans, Brenton Lawrence, Chris McQueen, Josh Papalii.  There won’t be any surprises on the bench.

Who I think selectors will pick: Daly Cherry-Evans, Matt Gillet, Chris McQueen, and Josh Papalii.