Jamie Soward: Blues will clean sweep series

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After months of speculation and intrigue, we finally learned this week the two teams who will go head to head in State of Origin I in Melbourne.

I think Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters have both picked really suited sides to combat each other on Wednesday night. NSW have chosen a side that’s fast and has the potential to score plenty of points, while the Maroons have selected a team that has a nice mix of players that have been there before but who are in form too.

It’s all shaping up to be a unique and very open series.

A few weeks ago I declared that Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary shouldn’t be chosen for Origin I as I was worried how he would come back from a serious knee injury. But after seeing his performance against the Dragons last Saturday, I have no doubt he’ll do the job – and do it well.

Yes, I copped plenty of criticism from leaving him out of my initial Blues team but unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold my Origin I team back until after the Dragons clash.

I spoke with Nathan earlier this week at the True Blues dinner and I think he wasn’t even sure how he was going to fair in his first two games back.

One key aspect that will help Nathan in his Origin debut and throughout the series is having his Panthers halves partner James Maloney with him every step of the way.

James Maloney and Nathan Cleary. Photo: NRL Photos

I think the pair will share the duties in steering the side, just like they do at Penrith.

Having Maloney will be a nice security blanket for Nathan, not that he’ll need it.

I was also very happy to see fellow Penrith pair Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tyrone Peachey selected for the Blues as well.

For the past year I’ve been talking this duo up deluxe in this very column. I’ve been of the opinion that both players needed to start games and not come off the bench. Well, ever since that’s been happening, the Panthers have been doing some great things.

For me, Reg is the best front rower in the world right now. Hearing his passion at the True Blues dinner the other night was music to my ears, it was the kind of passion NSW had lacked in years’ past and now we finally have it.

As for Tyrone, he is a deadest match winner. I love the way he plays and he’s not going to let anyone down. Yes, he may miss a tackle or two but who hasn’t?

I’m tipping NSW to win the opening game 27-14 and go on to clean sweep the series 3-0.

I think Dragons enforcer Tyson Frizell will take out the Wally Lewis Medal for Player of the Series.

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