Monday 30 April 2012

State of Origin 2012: NSW and QLD Teams and Predictions

By W D Nicolson, April 30, 2012
Time to break down the real contenders for State of Origin spots with Game One to be played in Melbourne on May 23.

Check out our Quick Hit Positional Analysis for the Official Game 1 NSW Team right here.
NEW SOUTH WALES BLUES - Official Game 1 Squad - likely starting team below.
B Stewart, J Hayne, M Jennings, J Morris, A Uate, T Carney, M Pearce, J Tamou, R Farah, P Gallen (c), G Bird, L Lewis, G Stewart.
Bench: J Buhrer, B Creagh, T Merrin, T Williams.

Check out our Quick Hit Positional Analysis for the Official Game 1 QLD Team right here.
QUEENSLAND MAROONS - Official Game 1 Team.
B Slater, D Boyd, G Inglis, J Hodges, B Tate, J Thurston, C Cronk, M Scott, C Smith (c), P Civoniceva, N Myles, S Thaiday, A Harrison.
Bench: M Gillett, D Shillington, B Hannant, D Taylor. D Cherry-Evans/D Nielsen (18th/19th men).


NSW: J Dugan/B Stewart, J Hayne/B Morris, M Jennings/J Hayne, C Lawrence, A Uate, T Carney, M Pearce, J Tamou, R Farah, P Gallen (c), L Lewis, G Bird, G Stewart.
Bench: R Hinchcliffe, T Sims, A Watmough/B Creagh, T Williams. A Woods/T Mannah (18th man)
Missed: Lawrence, Sims and Hinchcliffe. Dugan/Stewart and Watmough/Creagh was a toss up, Josh Morris and Trent Merrin force their way in and somehow so did Jamie Buhrer.

QLD: B Slater, D Boyd, G Inglis, J Hodges, B Tate, J Thurston, C Cronk, M Scott, C Smith (c), P Civoniceva, N Myles, S Thaiday, A Harrison.
Bench: M Gillett, D Shillington, B Hannant, D Taylor. D Cherry-Evans/C Parker (18th man).

All players listed are generally considered healthy - an * indicates that they picked up an injury in Round 8, 9 or 10  and may be in serious doubt for Game One. Given the amount of injuries that were picked up in the final game of Round 8 (Newcastle v Penrith) - the NSW side in particular might undergo some drastic changes by the time Ricky Stuart picks his Blues 17 for Game One. As for QLD - you know about 14 of the 17 are locked in, but there's still a couple of spots open for discussion.

If you've got a view - let us know in the comments below or via @NRLTweet
Favourite: Josh Dugan.
Contenders: Brett Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Anthony Minichiello, Kurt Gidley*.
Survey Says: This is Dugan's job if he can get through the next couple of weeks injury free. Ricky Stuart hitched his wagon to the Canberra fullback last year and although Minichiello did a decent job he won't be called on this year. Stewart's knees are dodgy and Gidley (if fit) is only being considered for a utility role. That leaves Hayne as option two on the depth chart.
Update after Round 9: Stewart is ahead according to the Telegraph but Dugan has proved his fitness with two good weeks back. Hard to tell what Stuart is thinking given he hasn't publicly supported Dugan since he returned.
Favourite: Billy Slater.
Contenders: Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd, Matthew Bowen, Ben Barba. 
Survey Says: Slater will be the fullback, Inglis will be in the centres and Boyd on the wing. Bowen and Barba's only hope of a run is on the bench.
Update after Round 9: Slater is the goods clearly, but gee can't Inglis play?
Favourites: Akuila Uate, Jarryd Hayne.
Contenders: Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Nathan Merritt, Matt King, David Williams*, James McManus, Beau Ryan.
Survey Says: Uate is locked in on the right wing and Michael Gordon may well have been the left winger had he been fit. Gordon will miss Game One, and the other wing spot relies on the health of Dugan in the #1. Should Dugan be fit, Hayne makes the squad on the wing. But if Dugan misses, Brett Morris would play in the #1 or the #2 and get a chance at Origin redemption. Josh Morris can play on the wing if required, while Merritt missed his chance to play due to injury robbing him of the first seven rounds. King would be the next cab off the rank because he's done a fine job at this level in the past.
Update after Round 9: Uate is one winger, Hayne or Brett Morris are the other. Only way Hayne doesn't play wing is if NSW lose Jennings in the centres.
Favourites: Darius Boyd, Brent Tate.
Contenders: Dane Nielsen, Ben Barba, Lote Tuqiri, Ashley Graham, Justin O'Neill, Daniel Vidot.
Survey Says: Jharal Yow Yeh will miss the entire series (and the year) after his horrific ankle injury and the logical replacement is Tate. He will partner Boyd on the wings unless QLD decide to go left field and move Nielsen to the wing or recall Willie Tonga despite some very ordinary club form. Tuqiri's ship sailed when he went to Union, while Graham is too much of a liability with his hands to risk at Origin level.
Update after Round 9: Tate is almost certain to get the spot, while Barba has emerged as risk/reward pick if QLD decide to go young. They won't and you can't see Nielsen or O'Neill getting in ahead of Tate or Barba really.
Favourites: Michael Jennings*, Chris Lawrence.
Contenders: Jarryd Hayne, Josh Morris, Matt King, Jamal Idris.
Survey Says: NSW have got close to the right combo at times but then made a dud call and either Inglis or Hodges have made them pay. Going with Jennings (if his shoulder injury is not as serious as it looked in Round 8) and Lawrence ticks almost every box - especially the most important one - making Inglis and Hodges worry about defending. Hayne needs to be in the team so you could see Stuart making room for him here, and although Morris is a little questionable defensively - he can well and truly attack. Idris is no hope.
Update after Round 9: Jennings needs to prove he's fit in Round 10 to be any hope - his shoulder continues to restrict him. If he's out - a Morris twin will be in the team, either Brett on the wing and Hayne to the centres or Josh to the centres and Hayne staying on the wing.
Favourites: Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges.
Contenders: Brent Tate, Dane Nielsen, Willie Tonga, Shaun Berrigan.
Survey Says: These two form one of the greatest centre combos in history and only injury opens the door here to Tate (but he'll be on the wing), Nielsen and Tonga. Berrigan wouldn't let anyone down but his only hope is on the bench.
Update after Round 9: Inglis is the best big game player in the NRL - and Hodges ain't far behind him. NSW must fight fire with fire because QLD will douse them in flames with this combo.
Favourites: Todd Carney, Mitchell Pearce.
Contenders: Peter Wallace*, Jarrod Mullen, Jarryd Hayne, Kurt Gidley*, Feleti Mateo, James Maloney, Jamie Soward.
Survey Says: Wallace is the only player with any hope of pushing into the halves but after this last fortnight Stuart looks to be set on the former Roosters combo of Pearce and Carney. Mullen and Hayne could come under consideration if Pearce stinks it up in Game One but Mateo and Maloney aren't in the picture due to the Warriors' form. And as for Jamie Soward - he hasn't shown Stuart enough at club level this year to press his claims for re-selection after only one good performance in three games last year.
Update after Round 9: Carney and Pearce will by 6 and 7 end of story. Wallace's groin rules him out for good.
Favourites: Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk.
Contenders: Daly Cherry-Evans, Corey Norman.
Survey Says: The Australian halves will be the QLD halves. DCE could find himself on the bench, while Norman is the ultimate QLD bolter.
Update after Round 9: JT needs a head scan after Matt Prior's tent peg but he'll be the 6 and Cronk the 7. DCE is now a genuine outsider for the bench spot he seemed a lock for two weeks ago.
Favourites: Paul Gallen*, James Tamou.
Contenders: Keith Galloway, Aaron Woods, Tim Mannah, Tim Grant*, Luke Douglas, Trent Merrin, Michael Weyman, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Kade Snowden, Jason King, Aiden Tolman, Dan Hunt, Brent Kite, Bryce Gibbs, Mitchell Allgood.
Survey Says: Wide open spaces after the locked in starters Gallen (who will skipper NSW) and Tamou. Woods has made a serious charge in the past couple of weeks and has arguably gone ahead of team-mate Galloway. Mannah might be an incumbent but he's not making a compelling case, while Grant would be there if he had played a game since Round 1. That leaves Douglas, Merrin, Lahrs and Weyman (who has made a move with recent form) as the next in line and given the value NSW has in the backrow - it'll be hard to see any of them make the squad. With Gallen able to play 80 minutes, there might only be need for two other props in the squad and Stuart can also play Tamou for 55+ minutes as it is.
Update after Round 9: IF Gallen misses due to a knee injury he picked up in Round 9 - then Stuart's plans go up in smoke. Picking Gallen allowed him to pick just one other legitimate front rower and play Watmough and Sims as his extra big men in the middle. Tamou is locked in but Aaron Woods could be a smart pick - while Merrin, Mannah and Weyman would be steps back given they would take spots from Sims and Williams - playing right into QLD's hands. The fact is - NSW will be better served with Sims and Watmough at prop than any other outsider being brought in - specialists or not. Tim Grant shapes as the true bolter.
Favourites: Matthew Scott, Ben Hannant.
Contenders: David Shillington, Petero Civoniceva, Corey Parker, Dave Taylor, Josh McGuire, Jacob Lillyman*, Martin Kennedy, Ben Ross.
Survey Says: Civoniceva will lose his starting spot and possibly his place in the squad if QLD decide that it is time to elevate Josh McGuire to the big time. Scott and either Shillington or Hannant will start, the other will be on the bench and QLD will take a second prop on the bench. That gives Parker a chance given he plays tight at lock anyway, while Taylor can play prop too. Lillyman's injury keeps him out of contention, while Kennedy and Ross miss out because of the depth already under serious consideration.
Update after Round 9: Scott and Civoniceva look set to be the starting props with Hannant and Shillington almost certainties for the two prop bench spots. That leaves Parker and McGuire out in the cold for Game 1, while Lillyman left his return from injury far too late.
Favourite: Danny Buderus*.
Contenders: Robbie Farah, Kurt Gidley*, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Mitch Rein, Michael Ennis.
Survey Says: Stuart wants Buderus and odds are he'll get his man if Buderus isn't struggling with his Achilles injury he aggravated in Round 8. The best choice to worry QLD around the rucks is Farah but no one can question the competitive drive and inspiration value of a still in-form Buderus. If Gidley in the 17 (he picked up a shoulder injury in Round 8) - there's no chance both Buderus and Farah will be in the squad, which in truth might actually be a really handy combination. Hinchcliffe is only going to play if Buderus and Gidley don't (now a possibility), while Ennis was left out on form and a lack of creative impact in his run as NSW #9. Rein is a long shot but who knows with all the injuries NSW suffered on mad Monday.
Update after Round 9: Farah will be the guy if Stuart has his head on straight, Buderus won't play due to injury and Ennis - quite frankly - isn't good enough. Only other options being bandied about are Mitch Rein, Isaac De Gois or Matt Keating - but wow, they are all an almighty reach.
Favourite: Cameron Smith.
Contenders: Matt Ballin, Andrew McCullough, Nathan Friend*, Jake Friend.
Survey Says: Smith will be QLD captain and the 80 minute hooker. Even if QLD take a hooking utility into the game, he'll stay on the field. See the utility analysis for more on other options.
Update after Round 9: It'll be Smith and no specialist hooker will make the bench.
Favourites: Luke Lewis*, Anthony Watmough*, Greg Bird.
Contenders: Glenn Stewart, Tariq Sims, Tony Williams, Ben Creagh, Feleti Mateo, Liam Fulton, Chris Houston, Shaun Fensom.
Survey Says: Beau Scott's injury rules him out for the first two games and probably the series which might actually allow NSW to pick some more strike in their backrow for Game One. Lewis and Bird are almost certain starters (health permitting - Lewis also hurt his shoulder in the carnage of MNF Round 8), while Watmough might be saved for a hybrid bench role (prop/lock/middle) if he doesn't start. That lets Stuart pick Sims and Williams on the bench and inject them at will. Stewart is the only player who could upset that mix, given the variety he offers with ball in hand. Creagh is the only other chance to make the team but he's behind a lot of quality on the depth chart. Mateo would be an inspired selection on the bench but won't get a run, while Fensom's been injured a touch long to have really forced his way into the conversation. Fulton and Houston are pure fill-ins if injuries decimate the Blues.
Update after Round 9: Glenn Stewart is now set to start at lock with Bird and Lewis his second rowers. Watmough goes back to the bench where he should be joined by Sims and Williams. But Gallen's injury could result in Sims or Williams missing out for a rather useless front rower who won't be up to Origin (and we're not talking about Aaron Woods).
Favourites: Ashley Harrison, Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday.
Contenders: Dave Taylor, Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, Dallas Johnson, Neville Costigan, Michael Crocker, David Stagg, Gavin Cooper.
Survey Says: Providing Harrison, Myles and Thaiday are fit - they'll be QLD's starting lock and second row. Taylor is a certainty for a bench spot and Gillett or Parker look to be battling for the hybrid prop/second row spot if QLD choose to go with a genuine half/hooker/back utility. Johnson, Costigan, Crocker and Stagg have done the job before but injury is the only way they get into this team.
Update after Round 9: This will be the backrow - Myles, Thaiday and Harrison. Taylor will be the backrow hybrid and Gillett the utility. No room for Corey Parker for Game 1.
Favourite: Kurt Gidley*.
Contenders: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Feleti Mateo.
Survey Says: Gidley is the man for Stuart if available because of the energy he injects into the side but his role will only be significant if Buderus gets the #9 (which is likely). However if Farah gets the gig, then Gidley might play a different role when injected. Hinchcliffe would do the job a benchy needs to if picked and Mateo is an ace in the pack Stuart won't risk... sadly.
Update after Round 9: Hinchcliffe should be the pick but the name Jamie Buhrer has been thrown into the mix by the Tele (see a pattern here?). Mateo can't be totally discounted yet.
Favourite: Daly Cherry-Evans
Contenders: Matt Gillett, Ben Barba, Shaun Berrigan, Andrew McCullough, Matthew Bowen, Travis Burns. 
Survey Says: Hard to see it being anyone but DCE or Gillett. And DCE's chances depend on whether or not Gillett makes the squad as a genuine forward option. McCullough is probably the best chance in terms of a regular hooker getting a run on the bench given his experience in a hooking rotation - as a guy like Ballin thrives with game time - and with Smith there - he won't get any. Barba would scare the life out of NSW if injected into the game but QLD might actually play it safe here... which is rare (but they've done it before with a healthy Bowen).
Update after Round 9: Gillett is for our money now ahead of DCE for this spot - pending JT's head scans. He covers more backline positions and allows QLD to go huge on the rest of their bench. Can't see Barba on the bench - wing is his only chance.

You can hear our final predicted 17s for both NSW and QLD (although you can probably work them out via this analysis on NOT The Footy Show's new Podcast this Wednesday night.

We will post those teams in this article on Thursday May 3rd.

If you've got a team you think Ricky Stuart and Mal Meninga will pick? Comment below.

NOT The Footy Show's NSW and QLD Team Selection Special will be released on Wednesday May 2nd via our iTunes Podcast and on our YouTube Channel. Subscribe to the Podcast here.