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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

2009 State of Origin Game One Teams: NSW v QLD

State of Origin Teams Game 3 on main page - www.wdnicolson.blogspot.com +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Brand New State of Origin Video Preview for GAME TWO - CLICK HERE.
UPDATE MON JUNE 1: NEW SOUTH WALES & QUEENSLAND TEAM PROFILES COMPLETED.
The wait is almost over, in just over a week Queensland and New South Wales will do battle in State of Origin I at Docklands in Melbourne to kick-off the 2009 Series. The Maroons are looking to make it four straight series victories, while the Blues will be trying to end the streak at three and restore order to the code. Here are the Game I squads with individual player comments. Also attached is a form rating for each player from their 2009 performance to date - based mainly on how well they are playing to their potential.
Game One Preview after the profiles below or HERE. Teams for Wednesday June 4, game will kick-off at 8pm. For the record: NSW to win the 2009 Series 2-1. Wednesday 27 May EDIT: Glenn Stewart has been suspended for 1 match and will miss the game, Luke Lewis has replaced him on the NSW bench. Sunday 31 May EDIT: Paul Gallen is out with a shoulder injury, Anthony Laffranchi is into the 17 with the final starting lineup to be known an hour before kick-off Wednesday. Manly and Australian backrower Anthony Watmough has flown to Melbourne to be 18th man. QUEENSLAND MAROONS - GAME I 2009 Fullback - SLATER, Billy Hasn't been in breath-taking form for the Storm but he still had to be picked for Game I. Could be targeted on kick-returns by the NSW kick-chase or avoided completely as has been the case in a few games he's played for the Storm this season. Form in 2009: C+ Winger - BOYD, Darius Wayne Bennett sure knows how to pick the next big thing. Boyd's first year or two in the top grade was so far removed from the player he is now, it is scary. In great form for the Dragons. Form in 2009: A Centre - INGLIS, Greg Back in his favoured left centre position we will see the best of Inglis in the next year or two playing outside Finch and Cronk - and in Origin where he'll be even better served by Lockyer and Thurston. Form in 2009: B Centre - HODGES, Justin If his hamstring comes good the NSW backline will be harassed all night by the best centre in the game. His partnership with Folau will give their NSW counterparts nightmares both on and before gameday. Form in 2009: B+ Winger - FOLAU, Israel If you don't enjoy watching Folau play Rugby League there is something seriously wrong with you as the youngster is so talented he reminds us weekly that he should be playing for NSW! Form in 2009: A Five-Eighth - LOCKYER, Darren (c) Has experienced just how tough it is to return to your best following major knee surgery and although his defence continues to be an issue - Lockyer has produced a performance or two this season that should leave no doubt he still has 'it' in attack. Form in 2009: C Halfback - THURSTON, Johnathan Up until the last month, Thurston's grade would've been well and truly in the C range but he has turned a corner since the Test Match and the Cowboys are currently hot - and Thurston is the reason. Queensland selectors will be smiling at this favourable change in form. Form in 2009: B+ Front Rower - CIVONICEVA, Petero Just keeps producing great go-forward for the Panthers and is playing 5 minutes more a game than 2008. One of Civoniceva's most under-rated skills is his ability to scramble defensively - it often goes unnoticed but it is huge for his team. Form in 2009: B+ Hooker - SMITH, Cameron Can play better than he has been and perhaps he's been saving his best for the Origin period and the second half of the NRL Season. Still one of the top players in the game today. Form in 2009: B- Front Rower - PRICE, Steven A throat injury early in the season has had an impact on his club form of late and perhaps he's finally starting to show his age? Leg drive is the key to any prop having longevity in the game and Price's fitness is usually great so he'll bounce back. Form in 2009: B- Second Rower - HARRISON, Ashley Has maintained a consistent game since joining the Titans following a disappointing stint with the Roosters and deserves to retain his Maroons jumper ahead of a strong challenge by David Stagg. Form in 2009: B- Second Rower - THAIDAY, Sam Was in devastating form in the opening two months of the season but since missing out on a Test birth his game has dropped off a bit. Gets an opportunity to fire back up against the Blues. Form in 2009: B+ Lock Forward - JOHNSON, Dallas Defensive workhorse has gone about his business in his normal no-fuss way but with the Storm desperate for edge runners to get their game plan back in action - Johnson hasn't been able to lend assistance. The good news for Queensland is Johnson is here for defence, defence and more defence. Form in 2009: B- Bench - HUNT, Karmichael Has probably been Brisbane's most influential player so far in 2009 but it wasn't enough to oust Billy Slater for the run on fullback spot. If he isn't required as an injury replacement he'll come on in a floating role either side of halftime and probably play the rest of the match if Queensland are chasing points. Form in 2009: B Bench - HANNANT, Ben For mine he is the form prop in the competition and Canterbury looked a little light in the middle of the park against Newcastle without their forward leader. Is playing 60+ minutes a week and while he'll only be needed for just over half that in Origin I - Queensland will lose little when he subs for Price or Civoniceva. Form in 2009: A+ Bench - MYLES, Nate One of the very very few bright spots in the Roosters season has been the form and consistency of Myles in 2009. He plays a modified prop/second rowers role with Sydney but will be needed for impact up the middle in Origin I along with Hannant. The enforcer NSW should fear more than Michael Crocker. Form in 2009: B+ Bench - CROCKER, Michael Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Crocker's 2009 season has not been his immediate impact on the NRL with Souths in just a fortnight of football and elevation back into the Queensland - but that no other club seized the opportunity to sign him earlier. Queensland have however passed on form backrower David Stagg to pick Crocker so he'll be expected to contribute. Form in 2009: B 18th Man - SCOTT, Matthew His last month of football suggests that he is finally fit and over his knee issues that had seen him under perform since his amazing Origin debut in 2006. Has chewed up the metres for the Cowboys with Carl Webb's form implosion and will do a good job for the Maroons if needed. Form in 2009: B Coach: MENINGA, Mal NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES - GAME I 2009 Fullback - GIDLEY, Kurt (c) If his knee complaint isn't an issue by game time the new skipper of NSW has a simple task in Game One - do nothing more than what he does best for Newcastle - run the ball. NSW will need his kick-returns to be on song and his prop like runs coming out of their own half to allow their less work ethic focused outside men the space required to do their thing. Shouldn't overplay his hand with the ball and allow Campese and Farah in particular to run the show. Form in 2009: A Winger - HAYNE, Jarryd If he hadn't woken up the fact he was playing with a pathetic attitude about a month ago he would be fortunate to be the Eels NRL side let alone the Origin team. Since moving to fullback and changing his attitude he's been a beast at the back and NSW will allow him some freedom in the middle of the ruck to float around their off-loading forwards. Form in 2009: B Centre - LYON, Jamie On a personal level I strongly disagree with this selection given Lyon has never been that interested in representative football and the spotlight - and secondly I've always believed him to be a player who only looks good and interested when his team is in control of matches. A trench-Origin-worthy footballer - that is not. His club form has been solid no doubt, but he's not a high involvement footballer and can disappear when his team is on the backfoot... prove me wrong Jamie. Form in 2009: B Centre - JENNINGS, Michael The risk/reward pick of the Blues lineup. He is the most explosive player in the NSW lineup and could form a really potent combination with Terry Campese on the left edge. Has the speed and footwork to give Justin Hodges a tough night but will be similarly targeted in defence which is obviously not his strong point. Form in 2009: A Winger - McMANUS, James Despite a strong push from his Novocastrian buddies - McManus was still a moderately surprising pick ahead of Joel Monaghan. That being said the only thing Monaghan had going for him at selection table was his aerial ability but in recent weeks McManus has done some nice things in the air and is a more no-nonsense type overall. He'll either be the second coming of Rod Wishart at Origin level for NSW or a one game nightmare for Coach Craig Bellamy. Hopefully the former. Form in 2009: B Five-Eighth - CAMPESE, Terry Has been mainly down on form in 2009 but the Raiders have been foolishly adjusting to David Furner's alternative game plan to the 2008 version and Campese's form has suffered as a result. They may have turned the corner against the Warriors but even if the game plan isn't being freed up entirely - it freed up enough to push Campese past Jarrod Mullen and into the five-eighth jersey for NSW that hasn't had a Canberra player in it since Laurie Daley in 1999. The last era that NSW featured a Raiders player at five-eighth was rather successful for the Blues so a good omen for Campese perhaps? Form in 2009: B- Halfback - WALLACE, Peter The one NSW selection I can't fathom based on Wallace's inability to play a game without kicking on the second tackle whilst in the attacking 20m zone but he's clearly the Blues first choice at halfback so I'll learn to live with it. That being said NSW also picked two genuine ball players in Campese and Farah so hopefully Wallace won't try and do much other than link those two... because if he thinks he's the top playmaker NSW are in deep poop and QLD will know exactly what to expect whenever the Blues reach their 20m zone. Form in 2009: B Front Rower - BAILEY, Luke Has been consistent his entire career and was an obvious selection ahead of some of the pretenders who featured in the NSW pack last year. Can be monstered with the ball however so must take the ball up with decoy runners along side him to avoid this. Tough with good endurance - Bailey should play the most minutes of all NSW props. Form in 2009: B Hooker - FARAH, Robbie How anyone could've seriously considered Michael Ennis ahead of Farah for this spot is beyond me. Farah has it all including a vastly under-rated running game which he has been showcasing in recent weeks. Classy playmaker from dummy half or one off the ruck, a deft left foot especially close to the line and a capable defender. He should be playing 80 minutes with Craig Wing only spelling his duty at dummy half rather than subbing Farah off the field entirely. The guy I would've picked as captain. Form in 2009: B+ Front Rower - KITE, Brent I still can't believe the Australian selectors picked him as Clive Churchill Medallist over Michael Robertson in the 2008 decider but Kite's been riding the coat-tails of that award ever since. Has never been a physically dominant prop and his form in 2009 has been sub-par at best. In for two reasons - he's at worst solid at his best and NSW were blooding two rookie props and felt more comfortable with Kite in the side as cover. But hey at least it's Kite instead of Brett White! Form in 2009: C Second Rower - CREAGH, Ben The push in the media for his selection got him over the line for a starting birth and if used correctly he can be a strong edge runner for the Blues. But if he's played too much in the centre of the ruck as a ball carrier he'll be smashed out of the game by the big QLD forwards. Keep him wide and he'll make a contribution. Form in 2009: A Second Rower - O'DONNELL, Luke Would have been one of the first NSW players picked behind Farah and Gidley. Is an agitating, tough and powerful backrower who the Blues will need to make his presence felt all over the field to keep the Maroons pack weary of the NSW unit. One tough hombre. Form in 2009: B+ Lock Forward - LEWIS, Luke Could find himself starting at lock to add another variation in attack from the kick-off and for mine that would be the bold selection to replace Paul Gallen. Even if Bellamy goes for Laffranchi or starts Weyman or Poore in order to have three props on the field at the beginning - it would be surprising to see no sign of Lewis at all in the first half. Will be another good ball runner on the edges if employed early. Form in 2009: A- Bench - WING, Craig Deserves his spot in the squad after coming back from injury and the disappointment of being replaced as South Sydney's long term five-eighth to thrive in a genuine utility role for the Bunnies. Won't see heaps of game time but will spend time at dummy half and as another edge runner in attack whilst defending closer to the middle of the field. Form in 2009: B Bench - POORE, Justin Was part of a pretty handy rookie class in 2004 (Hunt, Sonny Bill Williams, Reni Maitua, Todd Carney, Cooper Cronk, Campese, Manu Vatuvei & Anthony Tupou to name a few that debuted that season) and it may have taken him a while but he has earned a chance at representative football with a good apprenticeship in the NRL. Will do the job he's asked from the bench alongside fellow Dragon Michael Weyman. Form in 2009: B+ Bench - LAFFRANCHI, Anthony Won a chance to play in Game One when Glenn Stewart and then Paul Gallen were ruled out and could find himself in a prop like role as a result. Has been so-so in 2009 for the Titans and although he played in the ANZAC Test was no certainty for NSW as his club role doesn't translate well to Origin. If he rolls up his sleeves and limits the penalties conceded - NSW will get a positive contribution from the Titans backrower. Form in 2009: C+ Bench - WEYMAN, Michael Canberra fans who were willing to look at the talent and not the injuries knew Weyman was capable of this and those who wrote him off as a liability should feel like the gooses they are. I rated this kid as the best thing to come out of Canberra's junior front row stocks since Glenn Lazarus and with a little luck on the injury front, application and confidence from Wayne Bennett - Weyman is playing rep football. Form in 2009: A 18th Man - WATMOUGH, Anthony Unlikely to be required. Form in 2009: C- Coach: BELLAMY, Craig
Here's a preview of the Game One clash. The SQUADS (Full list and player profiles HERE): QUEENSLAND MAROONS - GAME I 2009 VERSUS NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES - GAME I 2009 GAME ONE PREVIEW: NSW have finally been adventurous and tried something different with the makeup of their team and will try and fight fire with fire out wide. The additions of Jennings, Farah, Campese in particular should excite all Blues supporters and give those cocky Maroon types far more concerns than the likes of Quinn, Tuner, Monaghan, Cooper (albeit still a great defender) and McManus... oh wait - he's playing. Still NSW have rolled the dice with some genuine attacking players and if Peter Wallace doesn't get in the way Farah and Campese in particular could combine beautifully with Jennings, Hayne, Gidley and Lyon in attack. Up front I see a bit of a stalemate ensuing as QLD has the edge in their starting props but NSW hold the edge in the backrow. The hookers are both quality players and should have a terrific battle. So in terms of the ruck - both sides should contain the other - which is where Origin can truly produce a great game as the respective backlines and playmakers can run do their thing and enthrall the crowd and TV audience with a classic. And given the talent in the Queensland backline and the rookie spark of their NSW counterparts - we could have a corker on our hands Wednesday night in Melbourne. If the conditions are good that is... the game is being played in Melbourne. Although Sydneysiders can't talk too much of late given the rain of the past month. Game One should always be the hardest to pick based on the simple fact that each team is somewhat different to the one that represented their state the year before and if there are carry over players - form isn't always carried over. Queensland deserve favouritism given the backline combination and their starting front row remains in tact for Game One but the game could turn on how much ball Farah and Campese get to work with and how little Wallace gets in the way. I'll admit I'm a New South Welshman through and through and after three straight years of Maroon victory laps - I'll be tipping the Blues in this one, as we strive to win the series for the first time since 2005. HOW THE GAME WILL PLAY OUT: I see the game being a see-sawing affair with QLD taking the lead early thanks to Israel Folau leaping high for a Thurston cross kick in the 8th minute, NSW bouncing back with two straight tries to Ben Creagh and Terry Campese on the edges but QLD to score 5mins before halftime through a Lockyer-Hodges-Slater combination and take a 12-10 lead into the break. QLD will extend that lead to 18-10 with 30mins to go when Cameron Smith barges over from dummy half but NSW will strike twice to win - the first to James McManus off a Peter Wallace cross kick (his 36th of the night) - and the last try off a Robbie Farah grubber near the line for Michael Jennings in the final 10 minutes. Farah to be the star alongside Campese and Luke O'Donnell. Best for QLD will be Hodges, Smith and Civoniceva. PICK THE SCORE: NSW 22 def. QLD 18 (HT: QLD 12-10) FIRST TRYSCORER: Who else... Israel Folau, QLD. LAST TRYSCORER: Michael Jennings, NSW. MAN OF THE MATCH: Robbie Farah, NSW. GO NEW SOUTH WALES! BLUES to win Series 2-1.

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