Tuesday 28 May 2019

NOT The Footy Show Episode 195: State of Origin Game 1 Preview QLD v NSW Podcast | 2019 Series

Stream the New Podcast

Podcast: State of Origin 1 Preview.

Join Robb Cox and Warrick Nicolson as they break down the two teams selected for the first QLD v NSW clash of the 2019 State of Origin Series.

They examine the demeanour of Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters in their respective press conferences and believe one coach is firmly in the hot seat entering this series.

They give their Game 1 and Series predictions and both cannot wait for the start of the Payne Haas v David Fifita rivalry which could span the next decade plus at the Origin level.

Check it out.

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Friday 24 May 2019

Predicted QLD Maroons Team for State of Origin 1 2019

Who will Kevin Walters pick for Game 1 2019?
2019 State of Origin Series
By W D Nicolson - May 24, 2019

Everyone loves a predicted Origin team just before the actual teams get picked... so after swinging at the fences for Brad Fittler's NSW team already, here is the best guess at the 17 Cane Toads that Kevin Walters will pick for QLD in their first series minus the entire big five.

Yep that's right, no Cameron Smith (well... we think), no Johnathan Thurston, no Billy Slater, no Cooper Cronk and no Greg Inglis for Queensland when they run onto Suncorp Stadium for Game 1 on June 5.

Welcome to life for the last decade and a bit as a NSW fan Queenslanders.

There has been one injury in the last 24 hours that could throw a spanner into the works for the QLD bench that is predicted below but I've listed the alternatives to Jai Arrow in the analysis.
The QLD Backline... 
The biggest question mark is over Daly Cherry-Evans and his ankle... he will not play Friday night v the Gold Coast but is expected to declare himself fit for Origin 1. His availability means that Ben Hunt will play hooker and Michael Morgan will be asked to fill the left centre spot.
Kalyn Ponga is the ready made replacement for the retired Slater, with Corey Oates, Will Chambers and Dane Gagai returning as incumbents in the three-quarter line - Gagai shifting back to the wing with Valentine Holmes signing with the NY Jets.
Cameron Munster is unchallenged as the five-eighth and will be QLD's go-to guy alongside Ponga.
The backline pretty much picks itself if DCE is fit, and I'd expect Justin O'Neill or Edrick Lee to get the 18th man gig as cover for Cherry-Evans with Morgan moving back to halfback if DCE is ruled out.

The QLD Forwards... 
Hunt will get the gig at hooker... he won't be happy but that's how he plays in this team with the incumbent Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend out injured. He won't have to play 80 minutes - in fact he could end up starting off the bench with Josh McGuire doing the opening 15-20 minutes at 9. But there simply is not another viable option with Reed Mahoney nowhere near seasoned enough for the gig and Jake Granville just not the player he was 3-4 years ago.
Up front Matt Scott will get the call to stiffen up QLD's front row and boost their experience stocks which Walters is big on. His arrival means Tim Glasby will be jettisoned after 3 wins in 3 Origins.
Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow are certainties - Arrow is dealing with a fresh quad/hip injury that rules him out of this weekend but he said he'll be right for Origin 1 - with Papalii the starter and Arrow to come off the bench. Jarrod Wallace will also miss out due to some very ordinary form to open the season and his constant ill-discipline is not something Walters can afford to carry. Dylan Napa hasn't been in irresistible form for Canterbury but he was the starting prop in Origin 1 and 2 last year and he will push Wallace out of the prop rotation.
Moving into the backrow - Felise Kaufusi gets in on reputation rather than 2019 form on the right, and Matt Gillett will return to the lineup - and possibly captain the team - on the left edge replacing the unlucky Gavin Cooper. They are both certainties. As is McGuire who will either start at lock (or hooker) or be picked on the bench with Arrow perhaps preferred at starting lock. Coen Hess hasn't shown the NRL what he can do this year but I just don't see Walters cutting the cord on one of his best from the last two series. He'll make the bench ahead of Cooper if QLD only carry three edge backrowers in their 17.
That leaves just the utility spot on the bench.
Anthony Milford is a favourite of Walters and although Hunt will not expected to play 80 at hooker that doesn't mean Walters will go with a hooker in the utility role. Michael Morgan can shift to the middle if need be and getting someone with Milford's speed and skill on the field with the game in the balance is just what QLD might need. 

This means QLD are likely to leave David Fifita and Joe Ofahengaue out - despite a push for both of them from the QLD old boys. If Arrow is withdrawn I think it comes down to the above two and maybe Cooper if Walters plays it safe. At this stage I think it's hard to find a spot for Glasby or Wallace.

So 6 changes in all for QLD - Slater has retired (Inglis didn't play Game 3 last year), Holmes has jumped ship to the NY Jets, Cooper, Wallace and Glasby will be victims of the returning Gillett and Scott and the need for a utility to cover Hunt at hooker and McCullough is missing through injury.

In comes Ponga at fullback, Morgan at centre, Scott at prop, Gillett in the second row and Milford and Napa onto the bench.

There is a sense of safeness in this predicted QLD lineup... if they lose Game 1 one wonders what Kevin Walters might do... or be asked to do by the QLD selectors who aren't used to this losing thing.

Agree/Disagree with this predicted QLD team?

Let us know in the comments below or via @NRLTweet on Twitter

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Predicted NSW Blues Team for State of Origin 1 2019

Who will Brad Fittler pick for Game 1 2019?
2019 State of Origin Series
By W D Nicolson - May 22, 2019

Everyone loves a predicted Origin team just before the actual teams get picked... so here we go.

I tried to get inside the head of NSW Coach Brad Fittler as much as is humanly possible and failed... but the below is mostly along the lines of what I think he will pick with bias given to the concept that Fittler will keep looking to the next generation when picking his side.

That means it's hard to imagine Blake Ferguson or Josh Morris getting a run in Game 1 at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.

I'm backing Freddy to back three young guns and a form winger to fill the likely four open spots in the NSW team.
The NSW Backline... 
Nathan Cleary will hold onto his spot at halfback, but James Maloney's Origin career is over. Luke Keary has made an irresistible case for a spot in the halves and his time is now. Keary's combination with Latrell Mitchell and Boyd Cordner on the Roosters' left edge secures his spot ahead of Cody Walker (who could find his way onto the bench maybe but it's hard to believe he'd get picked ahead of Keary).
It's because of that left edge combination that I think vaults Daniel Tupou into the team on the left wing, pushing Josh Addo-Carr to the right. Tupou has been just about the form winger in the NRL this season and was NSW's winger when they won in 2014 and has been treated a bit harshly in terms of getting another chance... I could swing and miss on this one terribly but I just don't think Fittler will go back to Josh Morris or Blake Ferguson, and Tupou's form has been immense (even if the media hasn't woken up to it yet). That left edge immediately becomes NSW's strength.
Then on the right Fittler can take one of two directions... go safe with Morris or Ferguson in the right centre spot... or back the kid he had in camp all last year in Nick Cotric. Yes Cotric only just got moved to centre for the Raiders last weekend but he was a centre in the junior ranks and was stuck behind Jarrod Croker and Joey Leilua at Canberra forcing him to the wing where he simply doesn't get enough of the ball. He didn't get into the game v Souths until the second half but when he did he was a factor and made 24 tackles on his ear - so the increased defence might actually be something he likes. Cotric and Addo-Carr is a heck of an exciting concept on the right as well... and as good as NSW's left edge is - you'd pass to this right edge with just as much enthusiasm.
James Tedesco is unchallenged for the fullback job... finding a spot for Tom Trbojevic in a few weeks is Game 2 Freddy's issue.

The NSW Forwards... 
The starting forward pack will be retained from last year 8 through 13 - talk that any one of them won't start is fanciful and I just can't see Fittler abandoning Angus Crichton on the bench. He's a certainty for one spot as people have forgotten pretty quickly how many minutes he played last year - 50, 35 and 53. He's in for sure. 
But the other three bench spots are up for debate...
Tyrone Peachey looks like he'll be a victim of his own poor form and not having much of a role for NSW off the bench in 2018 (the latter isn't his fault), so I can see Fittler going for Cameron Murray or Victor Radley in the utility role to cover a couple of positions. Yes, Peachey could play that role but I just feel like he'll be left out and although I would go with Radley, the gut feel changes daily and at the moment I think Murray gets the gig.
Tariq Sims played only one game last year - the Game 3 loss - but he played 34 minutes and gives a hard edge to the bench. He can play middle or edge as well and Fittler loves him.
The last spot - held by Jack de Belin in 2018 - will go to a prop. For mine it comes down to incumbent Australian prop Jordan McLean or boom rookie Payne Haas. McLean has been putting up great numbers for the so-so Cowboys but the Australian team is picked by Mal Meninga... so Freddy doesn't have to follow suit and Fittler (according to Phil Gould) wants to pick Haas at some point this series. So the decision is - play safe and take the very good McLean or back yourself and pick the dynamic Haas. Remember this role may only need to give NSW 20 odd minutes... so Haas it is.

So who else is unlucky... well a bunch of players probably deserve to be in the conversion but remember NSW are the defending champions so I just can't see Fittler making mass changes from the players who did the job so emphatically last year (unless he feels like he has no choice). Form is one thing, but NSW winning an Origin series for only the second time since 2005 is serious currency for the incumbents.

So to sum up - a hammy injury to Trbojevic forces one change in the backline, de Belin is unavailable so bench spot open, Maloney is a victim of Penrith's circumstance and Keary's resume in the halves and poor old Peachey has dropped out of sight and out of mind on the Gold Coast.

So four changes is plenty in a winning team, with Tupou, Cotric, Murray (or Radley) and Haas coming in.

Gee that's an exciting squad for Game 1... now we wait to see if Fittler will pick it.

Agree/Disagree with this predicted team?

Let us know in the comments below or via @NRLTweet on Twitter

Monday 6 May 2019

Who can the QLD Maroons pick out wide in Origin 1? Here's the list

Eligible Players for Queensland in 2019
2019 State of Origin Series
By W D Nicolson - May 6, 2019

First up, apologies for the lack of Rugby League content on www.wdnicolson.com so far this season, outside of a few Podcasts this site unfortunately just hasn't been a priority. So to all those loyal people who tuned in for the last decade plus for The Postman's Tips (and for The Postman's original Late Mail - yes we understood the value of the content long ago) - I'm sorry that they didn't continue to be posted in 2019. The season just snuck up on us and I wasn't able to do tipping coverage justice so it was left behind... mind you I'm still tipping and so far this year am 43 from 64 at 67.2% so that isn't terrible.

Anyhoo, you are here for the QLD Origin Eligible Players List and some actual Rugby League content so let's get to it.
Surprisingly the QRL have made this list an open book (well until they need someone from Samoa or Tonga or Fiji etc) and listed all their eligible players here - what I'll break down for you today below is who is actually available for the key spots in the QLD three-quarter line.

The reason this group is interesting is that with Valentine Holmes going to the USA and first Billy Slater, and now Greg Inglis retiring - QLD have a serious shortage of quality depth options in the outside backs with those three absent.

Corey Oates came in for Game 3 last year (after being a star at the Origin level in 2016, then getting punted when QLD got smashed in Game 1 2017) and he will definitely fill one spot.

Will Chambers and Dane Gagai are also incumbents from Game 3 and will get the call for Game 1 this year but with GI retired and Holmes gone, there is still one spot in the three-quarter line that is wide open.

But whether the open spot is at centre or wing comes down to what QLD Coach Kevin Walters wants to do with Gagai.

Now Gagai has been playing centre for Souths most of the year with GI missing but he's been great for QLD on their wing, so if you decide he's better value for QLD on the wing then who does QLD pick at centre?

If you take away Chambers , Gagai, Oates and assume Kalyn Ponga is at fullback to replace Slater this is the list provided by the QRL who are eligible for the centres:

Matt Gillett - Brisbane (Playing 2nd Row)
David Fifita - Brisbane (Playing 2nd Row)
Gehamat Shibasaki - Brisbane (In QLD Cup)
Kurt Capewell - Cronulla (Playing 2nd Row)
Brenko Lee - Gold Coast (In QLD Cup)
Dale Copley - Gold Coast (Injured)
Philip Sami - Gold Coast (Injured)
Brendan Elliot - Manly
Marion Seve - Melbourne
Tautau Moga - Newcastle (Injured)
Edrick Lee - Newcastle
Kurt Mann - Newcastle
Hymel Hunt - Newcastle
Michael Morgan - North Queensland
Gavin Cooper - North Queensland (Playing 2nd Row)
Coen Hess - North Queensland (Playing 2nd Row)
Javid Bowen - North Queensland (In QLD Cup)
Justin O'Neill - North Queensland
Ben Hampton - North Queensland
Enari Tuala - North Queensland
Tom Opacic - North Queensland
Moses Mbye - Wests Tigers (Playing Fullback)

And if you just look at pure wingers if you moved Gagai to centre the list has the following players added to it:

Ronaldo Mulitalo - Cronulla (In NSW Cup)
Kyle Feldt - North Queensland (Injured)
Gideon Gela-Mosby - North Queensland (In QLD Cup)
Nene Macdonald - North Queensland (Injured)
Corey Allan - South Sydney
Jonus Pearson - St George Illawarra (In NSW Cup)
Lachlan Maranta - St George Illawarra (In NSW Cup)
Corey Thompson - Wests Tigers

It's not exactly an embarrassment of riches like we are used to looking for outside backs in Queensland.

Macdonald and Feldt if fit probably would have been fighting it out for the open spot with Gagai moving into the centres, but Macdonald is done for the year with a serious leg injury and Feldt hasn't played a game yet due to a groin problem.

So the way I see it QLD have two directions they can go.

Play Gagai at centre and go with Edrick Lee, Justin O'Neill or (if he's fit very shortly) Kyle Feldt on the wing.


Leave Gagai on the wing and play it 'safe' in the centres by picking an extra second rower to mark up on either Latrell Mitchell or James Roberts (who may get dropped this week by the Broncos... but expect Brad Fittler will pick him for NSW if he's fit and back in the top grade in a few weeks) in Matt Gillett or Gavin Cooper, or they could go really bold and pick a talent like David Fifita or even move Coen Hess wider.

There is another option if Daly Cherry-Evans is fit for Game 1 and that is to play Michael Morgan in the centres but I expect him to be at #7 with Ben Hunt on the bench (or at #9 if they go in another direction to Andrew McCullough*).

So QLD are going to go from leaving Corey Oates out of their Origin team to having to pick either Edrick Lee or Justin O'Neill on the wing... or one of Gillett/Cooper in the centres. 

Talk about a change in fortune at the selection table!
Now I will reveal the QLD team I believe Kevin Walters will pick on the next NOT The Footy Show Podcast with Robb Cox (aiming for a mid-week record), and we will both pick our NSW sides as well.

But right now - Edrick Lee and Justin O'Neill are on the verge of a QLD debut and QLD recall - something realistically neither would have believed was a chance 12 months ago.
Now watch either of them get picked and play out of their skins - because that's the beauty of Origin, once you are there you can make a difference as we're talking about one game at a time here, not a long season. 

And good luck to them if they get picked; O'Neill in particular has made the most of his recall to first grade this season and was an Australian starting centre as recently as 2016 when he also played all three games for QLD. As for Lee, he was 18th man way back in 2015 when he was still at the Raiders and has since gone onto a stint with the Sharks and only landed at Newcastle this year.

So what combo would you go with in Game 1 QLD fans?

Ponga, Oates, Chambers, Gagai, Lee/O'Neill
Ponga, Oates, Chambers, Gillett/Cooper, Gagai

Or have we missed an option entirely?

*PS. News just in at lunchtime today (Monday May 6) has Andrew McCullough going down at Brisbane training with a knee injury, so Ben Hunt looks odds on to get the hooking role for QLD should McCullough be out for any length of time. So that means Morgan is firming for the #7 and wouldn't be picked in the centres.

Remember you can see the full list of eligible QLDers on the QRL website here.

Let us know in the comments below or via @NRLTweet on Twitter