Sunday 7 July 2013

#Origin 2013: If Bird and Gallen are out - what do NSW do for Game 3?

NSW Options Game 3: IF Gallen and Bird withdraw

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - July 7, 2013

The DECIDER is Wednesday week at a sold-out ANZ Stadium - but with fresh injuries on the scene for NSW - looks at the options for the Blues at the selection table.

Who gets the call for Game 3 for the Blues?
NSW skipper Paul Gallen is still no better than a 50/50 chance of playing on Wednesday week in Origin 3 and the Blues were dealt another blow with backrower Greg Bird damaging ankle ligaments in the Gold Coast's loss to the Panthers in Darwin this weekend.

At this stage Gallen has said he won't test the foot out until next weekend - meaning he will be picked but a shadow player will also be selected. Bird says his moon boot is just precautionary but he also says that he was serious pain when injuring the ankle on his first run.

Gut feel right now is both are named but both withdraw...

While Jarryd Hayne is expected to play in Game 3 - he won't play in Monday Night Football for Parramatta. The Blues will get James Tamou back - at the expense of Aaron Woods... but that move has been decided before Gallen's fitness is determined.

EDIT: Obviously we wrote this early Sunday, and the final team was named Sunday afternoon.

Here is the 20 man NSW Squad for Game 3:
Dugan, Morris, Jennings, Morris, Hayne, Maloney, Pearce, Gallen (c), Farah (vc), Tamou, Lewis, Hoffman, Bird. Bench: Fifita, Merrin, Reynolds, Watmough; Woods, McManus, Cordner.
So we know for sure that Gallen, Hayne and Bird are far from certainties to play, with Woods on standby for Gallen, McManus for Hayne and Cordner for Bird.

So if Gallen is out - who comes in?

NSW would be stupid to have blooded Woods in Game 2 and then not pick him as Gallen's replacement for Game 3. He is the smart pick given his size, agility and ability and he will be primed to do better after experiencing Origin for the first time. Tim Grant is his biggest rival - given he has recovered from a hand injury that kept him out of contention in Game 2 and Aiden Tolman would certainly do whatever job is asked of him if selected. But do NSW go 'for experience' in the form of a Willie Mason or maybe even a left field selection in Sydney prop Luke O'Donnell - who is in far better form than Mason at the moment.

Those five are the main contenders if NSW coach Laurie Daley chooses to stick a prop in for Gallen, but he might still push Trent Merrin to start at prop and pick another backrower on the bench.

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Which leads us to who would come in for Bird?

Anthony Watmough is almost certain to start for Bird - they are a good swap if Bird is going to be out, and NSW would be silly not to make it.

So who comes in on the bench?

Boyd Cordner has been explosive for the Roosters lately and must be in the mix (as Daley loves to say) but he's also unlikely to start - reducing the value of him in the squad.

Next up is John Sutton - yep, a five-eighth. While there is a good chance he might replace Josh Reynolds on the bench - does Daley really throw caution to the wind and play both Sutton and Reynolds on the bench?

Other players that might find their way into consideration are Wade Graham, Feleti Mateo (if Daley really wants to mess with QLD's defensive line) and Tariq Sims but when you really think of it - there's only one choice for Bird's spot in the 17.

Enter Glenn Stewart... who if he's even remotely fit now - will be Daley's pick given he's long been a favourite. He ticks all the boxes - bar actual club form right now, but if he says he is right to go - he will replace Bird.

So assuming Gallen and Bird do withdraw eventually, Hayne plays and our first choices come in, the Game 3 NSW team looks like this come gameday:
  1. Jarryd Hayne
  2. Brett Morris
  3. Michael Jennings
  4. Josh Morris
  5. Josh Dugan
  6. James Maloney
  7. Mitchell Pearce
  8. James Tamou
  9. Robbie Farah (c)
  10. Trent Merrin
  11. Luke Lewis
  12. Ryan Hoffman
  13. Anthony Watmough
  14. Andrew Fifita
  15. Glenn Stewart
  16. John Sutton
  17. Aaron Woods/Tim Grant/Aiden Tolman/Luke O'Donnell/Willie Mason
Is that team good enough to beat QLD and end the drought - even without Gallen and Bird?
I want to believe that yes, yes it is.
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