With Origin III just around the corner, the team changes for an injury depleted Queensland are a hot topic in the Rugby League community; Melbourne back Cameron Munster will debut for the Maroons in the decider with injuries to Johnathan Thurston and Darius Boyd forcing Kevin Walters to shuffle his side. Munster’s inclusion for the Queensland side is welcome given his scintillating club form and chemistry with the other members of the Queensland spine.
Munster’s inclusion has lead to talk of the future of the Queensland origin team, post Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston; there are a lot of emerging talents that look as though they can take over the roles of these greats. Munster is just one of many talents coming through that have Queenslanders excited for the post-big 3 era that has been a long time coming.
New South Wales also have a lot of talent coming through that have fans hopeful of being able to leave the Smith-Thurston dynasty in the past. Angus Crichton and Nick Cotric are just two names that have impressed this season. Cotric has been played out of his natural position, centre, after being brought in to fill Edrick Lee’s position on the wing. His backyard style of play and rookie success has been one of the only bright spots in an otherwise dower Raiders campaign.
Given the talent coming through for both states, it seemed prudent to put together a predicted run-on side for each side 5 years down the track.
7: A. Taylor
12: F. Kaufusi
Notable additions to the side are Kalyn Ponga, Ash Taylor and Melbourne’s Felise Kaufusi; Andrew McCullough replaces the retired Cam Smith after years of being stuck behind him for the Queensland hooking role, at this stage McCullough would be 32 but his ability to get through a mountain of work and still provide good service in attack certainly helps his case. Nine of these thirteen will have played at least one origin at the conclusion of this series so the four new names in the side still allow Queensland to maintain the level of loyalty that they have had so much success with.
Kalyn Ponga shone in the few chances he was given this season at the Cowboys, his move to Newcastle next season should allow him to flourish into the player that most followers of the game think he can become. I gave him the fullback spot ahead of Munster due to my view of Munster as more of a utility back that can fill a number of positions whereas Ponga is more of a specialist fullback.
Ashley Taylor has lead the Gold Coast to some gutsy wins this season, he lead the NRL in try assists for the first 12 weeks; a form slump has seen him fall behind in this category but his kicking game in attack shows potential for him to become that next great Queensland half. His defense has been the big question mark in his game, he averages nearly 4 missed tackles a game.
Felise Kaufusi has emerged this season as a pivotal piece in the Melbourne Storm set up, he has shown an ability to run great lines and has good chemistry with Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. Kaufusi leads all forwards with 10 line breaks and has 7 tries to boot; I see him forming a good combination at origin level with his Storm teammate Cameron Munster and this being very effective for the Maroons on the right edge.
2: T Trbojevic
11: Cordner (C)
13: J Trbojevic
The Blues team was much harder to pick, the wealth of talent that’s emerging and the talent that has already emerged looks very promising for New South Wales. It was hard to stay loyal to some incumbents simply due the age factor and the upside of some of these players.
Four new outside backs feature, the wing pairing of Tom Trbojevic and Josh ‘The Fox’ Addo-Carr present a scary combination of speed, strength and finishing ability. Tom Turbo looked set for a call up to Laurie Daley’s side this year but injury kept him out, I can’t see him waiting much longer for the phone call. Meanwhile, The Fox has proven to be another genius buy for Craig Bellamy; a combination of blistering speed and sensational finishing mean he could become one of the NRL’s premiere wingers in just a few years time.
The combination of Latrell Mitchell and Nick Cotric in the centres yet again is a combination of size, strength, speed and tackle busting. Cotric is third in the NRL for tackle breaks, only behind teammate Jordan Rapana and James Tedesco; his 96 tackles breaks are mighty impressive for a rookie, then you add in 10 tries and 10 line breaks as well, all for someone playing out of their preferred position.
Nathan Cleary partners Jack Bird in the halves in what I see as a very complementary partnership. Cleary is an organiser, a playmaker, someone with a very good kicking game and great game management. Bird on the other hand is a ball runner, a ‘natural football player’ so to speak; who can makes things happen with the ball in hand. Newcastle’s Jack Cogger got some serious consideration in the 6 jumper but I simply haven’t seen enough from him to justify the spot.
The other big inclusion is South Sydney’s rampaging backrower, Angus Crichton; this man is a downright problem. A dangerous ball-runner, his size, deceptive speed and engine make him an 80-minute threat for any team he comes up against. Since round 6, when he became an 80 minute player, he averages 132 metres and 34 tackles per game; add this to 7 tries, 8 line breaks and 58 tackle busts in that time and you have yourself a certified gun. Crichton is destined to play Origin, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see him in the team much sooner than 2022.
Both sides’ futures look extremely exciting, I can see Queensland struggling to find their feet after the departure of Smith, Thurston, Cronk etc. but it won’t take them long to bounce back.
Out of these two sides I have to favour the Blues, the outside players are very talented and I can only envisage them becoming even better with time. This isn’t to say that Queensland is without talent, but I think the physical attributes of these NSW players are too much for the smaller side to handle.
Obviously these teams are subject to change should better young players emerge, if players don’t pan out or if any veteran players manage to ‘grow a third leg’ in the next few years. I steered clear of players that will be around the 30-32 range around this time otherwise the squads would be largely unchanged, and rugby league is such a frantic game that who knows, maybe the guys who are there know won’t be able to keep it up for 5 more years.
Whichever way it pans out, we’re in for a very exciting future in the Origin arena.