State of Origin just around the corner, we have put our heads together to devise the teams we would select for Holden State of Origin I at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday May 27. Here is our NSW Blues side; the NSW selectors will name their squad on Tuesday.
NSW Blues Origin side for Game One
1. Josh Dugan (Dragons)
Against the Rabbitohs on Monday night Dugan was easily the best player on the paddock in a losing Dragons team, frequently punching holes through the Souths defence from the back. There had been some conjecture on who would replace Jarryd Hayne in the No.1 jersey this season, but Dugan will be the first name on the team sheet.
2. Daniel Tupou (Roosters)
The rangy Roosters winger played his way back into a Blues jumper in the annual City v Country clash and backed it up with a hat-trick against the Wests Tigers last Friday night.
3. Michael Jennings (Roosters)
An Origin veteran of 12 games, Jennings’ club combination with Tupou is an important element of the make-up of Laurie Daley’s team.
4. Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
The Bulldogs centre will hit double digits in Origin games when he runs out against the Maroons on Wednesday week. Morris became a part of Origin folklore last year when he and his brother Brett played through injury to help clinch NSW a crucial Origin I win.
5. Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs)
After making his debut for Australia two weeks ago, the young Rabbitohs winger should go close to making his Origin debut – edging out the Tigers’ James Tedesco and incumbent James McManus.
6. Mitchell Pearce (Roosters)
Pearce has been arguably the strongest NSW-based half in the NRL this season and should make a return to the NSW side. The Roosters halfback has never once played a game at five-eighth in the NRL but could don the No.6 against Queensland alongside the man who replaced him for the Blues last season.
7. Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs)
The Bulldogs halfback played a starring role in NSW’s first Origin series win since 2005 last year and is playing well enough to justify a recall. Would also double as the team’s goal-kicker.
8. Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers)
One of the game’s best front-rowers this year – ranking third among all players for run metres – Woods was a starting prop for the Kangaroos in the Anzac Test and should continue his rise throughout this Origin series.
9. Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers)
The Tigers skipper and New South Wales vice-captain is easily the best option at hooker and will be one of the first picked by Daley.
10. James Tamou (Cowboys)
The Cowboys prop has undergone a form transformation of late, with stronger performances coinciding with North Queensland’s five-game winning streak.
11. Ryan Hoffman (Warriors)
The move across the ditch from the Storm to the Warriors hasn’t hindered the form of one of last year’s two Brad Fittler Medal winners. While he didn’t play in the representative round, Daley should have no qualms picking this Warrior.
12. Beau Scott (Knights)
The Newcastle enforcer has been battling an ankle complaint of late, but his grunt in the inevitable forward battle will be crucial for the Blues. He’s also a master of shutting down opposition playmakers – one of Queensland’s key strengths.
13. Trent Merrin (Dragons)
With skipper Paul Gallen ruled out of Origin I, Dragons star Merrin comes into our side at lock. The 25-year-old has been buoyed by his recent Kangaroos debut and will be in for a big Origin series.
14. Luke Lewis (Sharks)
Having played at Origin level at wing, centre and the second row, Lewis has the skills and experience to justify being used in a utility role or as another forward option for Daley to utilise. You’d be mad to leave him out.
15. Boyd Cordner (Roosters)
While he didn’t receive a call-up for either Australia or Country a fortnight ago, Cordner proved against the Wests Tigers last Friday night he still has what it takes to perform well at this level.
16. Andrew Fifita (Sharks)
With every defender he palmed off against the Warriors on Saturday night, the Sharks prop inched closer and closer to an Origin recall after missing out on the entire Origin series in 2014.
17. David Klemmer (Bulldogs)
Earned a surprise Kangaroos call-up in last year’s Four Nations tournament and has gone from strength to strength for the Bulldogs this season. We’ve picked Klemmer to make his Origin debut in place of the injured Paul Gallen.