Monday 29 April 2013

Origin 2013: Predicted New South Wales Blues Team for Game 1 #Origin1 #NSWvQLD

Predicting what Laurie Daley goes with against Queensland

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - April 29, 2013

The confirmed NSW and QLD Game 1 Teams are here

1. Jarryd HAYNE
2. Brett MORRIS
3. Michael JENNINGS
4. Josh MORRIS
6. James MALONEY
7. Mitchell PEARCE
8. Paul GALLEN (c)
9. Robbie FARAH
10. James TAMOU
11. Ryan HOFFMAN
12. Luke LEWIS
13. Greg BIRD
14. Andrew FIFITA

15. John SUTTON or Josh REYNOLDS (both in camp)
16. Trent MERRIN
17. Anthony WATMOUGH
18. TBA
PLEASE NOTE: Obviously this feature was published in late April - so it has evolved since. The actual NSW squad is below however - above the rest of the piece.
Our QLD Squad is here
Who makes Daley's Blues for Game 1? Find out below...
The Daley Mail: Only 2 spots in 17 are 'undecided'*

If you've listened to, or read anything Laurie Daley has said in the past two months - it is pretty clear that the new NSW coach has embraced most of the changes in 'culture' that his predecessor Ricky Stuart implemented, and it look increasingly like he might stick with a similar squad come Game 1 on June 5 at ANZ Stadium.

But as you'll find in the next few paragraphs here on, there are still some positions that are up in the air - there just isn't many of them as in the recent past.

* '2 in 17' was when this feature was drafted on April 29 - Injuries obviously play a part thereafter.

2013 State of Origin Schedule
Game 1: ANZ Stadium, Sydney – June 5
Game 2: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane – June 26
Game 3: ANZ Stadium, Sydney – July 17


The rest of the pre-team selection piece is below...
Plus we pick our own NSW 17 - the one we think would give NSW the best chance of ending Queensland's dominance... and win a series for the first time since 2005.

Brett STEWART (Incumbent)
Jarryd HAYNE
Michael GORDON
FULLBACK SKINNY: Daley has been openly stating Stewart will be his custodian if fit. He likes his ability to turn half chances into tries and that's a fair quality to have. Hayne may provide more general playmaking but he'll make the squad on the wing and probably float a little. Gordon is a safe pick if injuries to Stewart or Hayne eventuated.
VERDICT'Hamstring injury' permitting - NSW will give Brett Stewart his #1 jersey back for Game 1. But don't be stunned if Hayne plays some time at the back during the match.
Stewart left the field in Round 8 with back stiffness... and further scans revealed a serious problem - he is extremely unlikely for Origin 1 and will likely miss 4-6 weeks. Hello Jarryd Hayne?
Jarryd HAYNE (Incumbent)
Brett MORRIS (Incumbent)
Akuila UATE
Michael GORDON
WINGER SKINNY: Hayne and Morris have been given the green light by Daley here. Uate or Gordon will be next in line pending injury or a bad game in Origin 1 (from Morris in particular). Uate is a game-breaker who needs to take his second chance with both hands if it comes, while Gordon's upside is his goalkicking and versatility (which makes him a strong contender for 18th man duties). The only way Morris misses out is if Daley goes with Sutton or Reynolds at five-eighth - because if it isn't Carney or Maloney in the #6, NSW don't have a recognised goalkicker in the starting lineup.
Taufua's ground game isn't what's holding him back - it's his lack of ability to defend the high ball if targeted, and while Merritt is good enough - he won't get a run unless as a late call-up due to injury.
VERDICTAs stated above - Daley has chosen his flankers for Game 1. NSW are blessed with options here, so there is a little bit of pressure on at least one of the incumbents.
UPDATE 7/5Morris suffered a knee/hamstring injury early in Round 8 and if serious - his absence opens up a world of possibilities... not least at five-eighth given if Gordon gets the job on the wing - NSW have a goalkicker. I'd rate Gordon as the favourite to replace Morris, and if Hayne replaced Stewart at fullback - Merritt or Uate would get the 2nd wing spot.
UPDATE 8/5Morris has been picked for Round 9 but is out for a fortnight after knee surgery, however with Stewart unlikely - Hayne likely shifts to fullback and that opens up a spot for Michael Gordon... and most likely (if Morris doesn't play) Merritt or Uate.
UPDATE 13/5: Blake Ferguson is now in the picture... if the media is to be believed. If Daley is comfortable picking him on the wing, he might now be ahead of Uate and level with Merritt/Gordon for one of the vacant wing spots.
Michael JENNINGS (Incumbent)
Josh MORRIS (Incumbent)
Jarryd HAYNE
Michael GORDON
Joel THOMPSON (Injured in Round 7)
CENTRE SKINNY: Jennings is in better form now than he was 12 months ago - when he went from NSW Cup centre to State of Origin centre (and NSW's best player in Game 1). He's flying right now and is a no-brainer. Morris on the other hand hasn't shown what he can do on an ordinary Canterbury squad, bar on the defensive side of the ball - but that goes unnoticed when his team loses. Morris will be in the team, and got a fair wrap for his ability by being 18th man for Australia in the ANZAC Test. Hayne or Gordon are the next best options - despite both being fullbacks who can play wing. Ferguson returned from injury in Round 7 and has thrown his hat into the ring by exposing Melbourne's and Newcastle's centres in back to back weeks. Idris and Linnett are solid club players who would get found out against Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges, while Wighton is only on this list because Daley is a massive fan of the kid. The only other option - Chris Lawrence, just got injured and he wasn't playing well anyway. And please don't say 'Why isn't Jamie Lyon on this list? - because if he doesn't want to play, he shouldn't be encouraged to. If you want an absolute bolter... then Thompson is your man (if he wasn't hurt - toe injury in Round 7) - big body with enough experience in the centres to do a job if Daley called on him.
VERDICTJennings-Morris is your centre combination folks. But if either get hurt - Daley may need to re-shuffle his backline considerably. Ferguson if picked - it will be on the wing.
Todd CARNEY (Incumbent)
FIVE-EIGHTH SKINNY: Easily the most wide-open spot. Carney is the incumbent and he played well in two of the three games last year... he can also kick goals (though his misses last year in Game 1 were costly) and can summon something from nothing - he just needs to show that at Origin level. Maloney is his main rival and can certainly play... he thrives off ball-playing forwards - and NSW have a few of them - plus he's a fearless runner. He is a dead-eye with the boot and his kick-chase is excellent. The downside is he drops off tackles a lot, but the flip side is he can pull off the desperate ones when he has too. On the next level are Sutton - who is either very good or almost invisible (a big risk in the Origin arena), and Reynolds - who like Maloney struggles with his tackling but not his involvement or intensity. What counts against Sutton/Reynolds is their lack of NRL goalkicking experience... (though Reynolds was a NSW Cup kicker), and both Mullen and Sezer are probably more chance of being in the halfback conversation than the five-eighth one (see below for more on them).
VERDICTNot to put too much pressure on whoever gets the #6 jumper - but if Daley gets it right then NSW could break their 7 year drought... if he gets it wrong/his choice folds like bad origami under the pressure of Origin - NSW will be lamenting 8 long years without any joy... no pressure Laurie! 
7/5 Update: Daley said to the press today that Todd Carney has the job... but it is his to lose. Both played well in Round 8 - Carney helping the Sharks to upset the Knights and Maloney kept the Roosters ticking in smashing the Panthers. I still lean Maloney... just.
15/5 Update: It'll still be down to Carney v Maloney... even if NSW pick a goalkicker on the wing or at fullback.
Mitchell PEARCE (Incumbent)
HALFBACK SKINNY: Daley has made his decision - possibly before Round 1 even kicked-off - and Mitchell Pearce gets another crack at improving his 2-7 match (and 0-4 series) record. His form is good enough to keep Adam Reynolds at bay for Game 1 - but if he's poor and NSW get towelled up in Game 1 - who knows... maybe Reynolds and his kicking smarts (including his goalkicking) force Daley's hand... Jarrod Mullen might be playing five-eighth for the Knights but his kicking game is that of a halfback's (Injured again in Round 8). Kurt Gidley is a desperate move, but an option nonetheless. Aidan Sezer is another five-eighth who could be considered if injuries decimate the #7 candidates.
VERDICTPearce is the guy... now it's up to him to show everyone he's a better player than he's shown so far at Origin level.
James TAMOU (Incumbent)
Tim GRANT (Incumbent)
Willie MASON
FRONT ROWER SKINNY: Only issues from a current neck injury can keep Tamou out of the starting team, but Grant's going to do it tough to keep his spot. Incumbent or not, Grant hasn't been in consistent form so far this season and his competitors are beating down the door. He's put his hand up the last fortnight but it probably won't be enough to hold his spot.
Those rivals who could leap-frog him are Merrin (who has been playing a lock/prop hybrid for the Dragons), Woods and Fifita. Merrin and Woods are playing great footy right now and if Daley is watching the same games as I am - Woods and Farah are a fantastic combination in the middle of the field. Merrin will be in the squad but on the bench, while Fifita is probably up against it to get into the Game 1 squad. That means Grant is at best 5th in line, and that's not including Gallen as a prop.
Outside of those mentioned above, Mason wouldn't be a dumb selection - he'd give Daley one or two stints of everything he has if called on. James may have been mentioned by some pundits but he needs a lot more NRL games before being considered. Hunt and Tolman would do whatever is asked of them in limited roles, while Douglas is once again a forgotten man playing on the Gold Coast. Mannah isn't in contention... or rather he shouldn't be. He's just not a force at Origin level, despite his ticker.
VERDICTTamou is locked in and the other starter will depend on where Gallen plays. Woods is a great young player and his familiarity with Farah makes him a smart pick to start (and be in the team at the very least). Merrin might not play big minutes off the bench but he'll be in the squad. And yes, that's only 3 props - with Grant likely to miss out to Woods.
15/5 Update: Grant is making a case for retention but Woods and Fifita offer more athleticism. Remains the second biggest question mark.
Robbie FARAH (Incumbent)
HOOKER SKINNY: Farah was very nearly the difference last year in NSW breaking Queensland's hold over the series... but he just didn't have the support from the halves when he needed it. He's a certainty. Gidley will be his cover on the bench, though expect Farah to play 80 minutes. Hinchcliffe will be 3rd in line if he's healthy come the time he's needed, while McCrone could find a spot on the bench if Gidley had to start for an injured Farah. There's no other contenders whatsoever... none at all.
HOOKER VERDICTFarah will be the #9, Gidley the #14. End of discussion.
Paul GALLEN (Incumbent Lock)
Greg BIRD (Incumbent 2nd Rower)
Beau SCOTT (Incumbent 2nd Rower)
Luke LEWIS (Incumbent reserve)
Anthony WATMOUGH (Incumbent reserve)
Ben CREAGH (Incumbent reserve)
Tony WILLIAMS (Incumbent reserve)
Feleti MATEO
Tariq SIMS
BACKROW SKINNY: Scott is out of contention as he's injured and Williams is next to no chance after an apathetic start to the season. Creagh is the other incumbent who is under pressure - he's done nothing at club level to suggest he's a 'must-pick' and NSW are already backrower heavy on the bench as it is (though he did play 'prop' last year for NSW).
So we know from Daley that Gallen is likely to start at lock (and play prop during the game), with Bird a certainty to start. The only real question is whether Lewis or Watmough start in the other second row spot.
While some of us think picking only one prop on the bench isn't the smartest idea (and the man most likely - Merrin has been playing lock at club level), Daley will hand Hoffman a spot on the bench alongside either Lewis or Watmough. Hoffman's main rival - Stewart has only just returned from a long term injury and needs a big few weeks to put his name into serious contention. Despite a good start to 2013 - Hoffman isn't an impact player... so his selection balance wise is a question mark.
Mateo and Sims would be massive gambles... but that's what you need at Origin level if there's no real standout for a bench spot. If they are going to only play 10-15 minutes or so - why not pick a guy who can potentially turn a game in that span?
Graham and Jackson might be on the radar in the future (not this series), while Fensom would be a perfect defensive plug if Daley needed one.
VERDICT: Gallen, Lewis, Watmough and Bird are certainties and Hoffman looks very likely. Whether or not there's a backrow bolter depends on Daley's preference for how his bench looks. 
7/5 UpdateGallen will race the clock to be fit after a knee injury in Round 8... but then again he might play in Round 9! At this stage consider him very likely to play Origin 1.
15/5 Update: Gallen says he'll be fine.
1. Brett STEWART* (Jarryd HAYNE)
2. Jarryd HAYNE (Nathan MERRITT/Akuila UATE)
3. Josh MORRIS
4. Michael JENNINGS
5. Brett MORRIS* (Michael GORDON/Blake FERGUSON)
6. James MALONEY
7. Mitchell PEARCE
8. Aaron WOODS
9. Robbie FARAH
10. James TAMOU
11. Greg BIRD
12. Luke LEWIS
13. Paul GALLEN* (c)
14. Kurt GIDLEY
15. Anthony WATMOUGH
16. Ryan HOFFMAN
17. Trent MERRIN
18. Michael GORDON/Josh REYNOLDS
* Injury concern.
VERDICTAfter analysing what Daley has said and written - he's got 13 of his 17 set in stone for Game 1. Merrin and Hoffman are more than likely for mine, so that leaves - in my opinion - just the five-eighth job and one prop spot up for grabs.
I say he goes Maloney and Woods or Grant. But don't be stunned if Carney prevails (which I am more than happy with) and I've got a nagging feeling Creagh may get a reprieve... though I've got no idea why.
UPDATE 2/5: Daley said to the press today that Todd Carney has the job... but it is his to lose.
UPDATE 7/5Injury to Morris looks like giving Gordon a spot on the wing, while injuries to Stewart and Gallen are a concern but they should be fit.
UPDATE 8/5Stewart is now the big concern - with further scans on his back revealing damage that could keep him out 4-6 weeks and thus out of Origin 1. Morris has been named to play Round 9... but had knee surgery after MNF and is out for at least 1 if not 2 weeks. Gallen should be fine for Game 1. The variable with Stewart is Michael Gordon to the wing or fullback and Hayne staying on the wing or going to fullback. And if Morris isn't right to go - is it Merritt or Uate?
UPDATE 15/5: Ferguson is the player who has put his hand up in the last fortnight... will he beat out Merritt and Gordon if Morris is fit? Carney v Maloney remains a 50/50 coin flip.

For the record - @NRLTweet's NSW squad would be:
J Hayne, A Uate, M Jennings, J Morris, M Gordon, J Maloney, T Carney, A Woods, R Farah, J Tamou, G Bird, L Lewis, P Gallen. Bench: K Gidley, A Watmough, T Merrin, A Fifita.
Why? I'm a firm believer in the more genuine playmakers the better. And go with size on the bench. 
Game Plan? Bash QLD and try and find points anyway you can - or more optimistically: go out and make things happen. I mean it's not like the other game plans have worked recently right?
Who do you think Daley picks for Game 1? 
List your predicted 17 below and if you wish - the team you would pick as well.
Comment on this feature below or by replying on Twitter.
The NRL Injury List is updated regularly during each week of the season, making it an invaluable Fantasy and Tipping Tool alongside our Weekly NRL Previews once again.

Remember if you want game-specific Late Mail every week, then check out our Round Previews Every Wednesday and they are updated with all the very latest Late Mail on Friday.

If we are missing any players on this list - please comment below, reply on Twitter or email this address.
Who will take Ben Barba's mantle as champion in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards?

The Prestigious Award returns for a 4th season in 2013.

@NRLTweet Player of the Year Award Voters:
Warrick Nicolson @NRLTweet | Nigel Wilbow @parramatters
Justin Davies @dragonpunk12 | Greg Delaney @gregdelaney84
Matt Spillane @devonhead | Matt Trodden @trods2906
Matt Vickers @mercurialmattyv | Ben Hoese @gunnermcdagget
Adrian McMurray @adrmcm | Matthew Duncan @mrpeninsula
Maria Tsialis @mtsialis | Ben Jones @benwah87

Review all of the voting results from 2012 right here

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty