As the list of injured Origin players seems to grow by the week, so does the list of their potential replacements. Queensland were dealt a blow this week with Johnathan Thurston succumbing to a rotator cuff injury; while the true extent of this injury is not yet known, it could see him miss Origin 1 and snap his streak of 36 consecutive games. This only further depletes the side that is already missing Matt Scott and Greg Inglis.
NSW were also weakened when starting front rower Aaron Woods went off with a hamstring injury. Woods will miss at least 4 weeks ruling him out of game 1 and potentially game 2. Woods has been touted by some as the next captain of the Blues side, and his exclusion leaves a hole in the leadership of the team that won’t be easy to fill.
While the ruling out of these players hurts both teams now, it opens up a spot for new talent to be blooded in the Origin arena. There are a few candidates whose recent performances have warranted a mention in the Origin discussion.
Queensland won’t find a replacement for JT, simply because he’s one of the best of all time; having said that there are a few players that can take on his role in the short term to help Queensland to victory.
Norman has been in scintillating form the past 18 months with Parramatta, his left foot kicking game and natural ability to run the ball at the line are similar to that of Thurston’s. He’s averaging around 300 kick metres a game, to go with 5 line breaks and 4 try assists in his 8 appearances.
At the start of last season Milford was the form player of the competition, leading Brisbane to a hot start; this year he hasn’t quite found the same form but has been far from poor for the Broncos. Milford’s attacking game is not what will hold him back from being selected, rather his defense; he misses 4 tackles a game and sometimes looks weak against bigger opponents which can lead to issues in the Origin arena.
Morgan has been the utility off the bench for Queensland in 5 of the last 6 games and only missed game 3 last year after being ruled out with injury. The only reason that you’d think Morgan misses out on the jumper is if Kevin Walters wants to keep him on the bench as the utility for a late spark. His experience and strength defensively gives his resume a boost over the other candidates.
Cherry has had a bit of an up and down start to the year with the Sea Eagles, he has 9 try assists which ties the competition lead with Josh McCrone of St George. His kick metres are down around 100 metres a game, but this can be put down to Manly’s acquisition of Blake Green. Cherry-Evans has of course played in the Origin arena before, he has 6 games for the Maroons under his belt.
This year the Blues are spoiled for choice in the forwards with so many players performing so well for their clubs. The Woods injury is a blow but it will allow one of these players who may have not been given a chance otherwise to earn their spot in the side.
To start the season Vaughan has been the form front rower in the NRL, averaging 150 metres a game at about 11 metres per carry. His impact up front with Russell Packer for the Dragons has been a big part of their red hot start to the season. Vaughan is a hard runner of the footy and looks dangerous when he’s with it, he has 2 tries to go along with 6 offloads this year so far.
The 118kg behemoth has been impressive for Canberra up front this year; good for about 150 metres and an offload per game, he is proving very difficult for opposition defences to stop. Surprisingly he also has 2 try assists against his name, showing that he can be more than just a battering ram should the Blues require some extra ball playing help.
While the numbers for McLean may not be quite as impressive as the previous 2 players, he certainly has stepped up for Melbourne in Jesse Bromwich’s slow start; the Cowboys bound man has impressed so much that he earned himself a trip to Australian camp for the ANZAC test. While he was not a part of the team of game day it’s worth noting that his performance for the Storm earned him a spot there.
Trbojevic is more of a lock by nature than a front rower but he represented the Kangaroos in the front row during the ANZAC test and is good friends with potential partner Dave Klemmer. This pick is more of a punt because I can see him being a part of the team but it’s probably going to off the bench more than anything. Trbojevic has been in good try scoring form as of late, he has 3 tries and 4 offloads to go with more than 500 metres in his last 3 appearances.
Queensland should keep Morgan on the bench and bring in Norman to fill in for JT, his kicking game in attack is too good to ignore and he has been in a rich vein of form lately. Paul Vaughan has shown this year so far why he should be pulling on a blues jersey, impactful runner of the ball, dangerous in attack and a good defender, you can’t ask for much more out of a front rower.
Game 1 Predicted Teams
- T. Trbojevic
- Leilua (J. Roberts if fit)
- J. Trbojevic