Ladder leaders the Penrith Panthers could have up to eight players take part in the first State of Origin match between the New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons on Wednesday, June 9 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
You can pencil in Kurt Capewell for the Maroons side while Nathan Cleary is an absolute lock for the Blues halfback spot.
The other six players who are in the mix for NSW according to comments made by coach Brad Fittler and selector Greg Alexander, are winger Brian To’o, five-eighth Jarome Luai, hooker Api Koroisau, lock Isaah Yeo with Liam Martin on the bench and Stephen Crichton as 18th man.
Injuries and suspension to Cameron Murray, Victor Radley and Angus Crichton have all but guaranteed Isaah Yeo a spot as starting lock while the recent poor form by incumbent hooker Damien Cook has opened the door for Koroisau to make his State of Origin debut.
While Liam Martin may be considered a bolter, his ability to play second-row and prop may just give him the edge for a bench spot. He came close to making the side last year and his recent form for the high-flying Panthers has elevated his chances.
Stephen Crichton, on the other hand, has shown plenty of versatility to play both fullback and centre this season and while a starting spot may be out of reach, a stint as 18th man is a definite possibility.
My NSW Blues side is: 1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To’o 3. Tom Trbojevic 4. Latrell Mitchell 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Payne Hass 9. Api Koroisau 10. Daniel Saifiti 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Jake Trbojevic 13. Isaah Yeo.
Interchange: 14. Jack Wighton 15. Junior Paulo 16. Regan Campbell-Gillard 17. Liam Martin 18. Stephen Crichton.
What caught my eye last week…
The moustaches sported by several of our first grade referees, Ron Burgundy eat your heart out.
What game I’m looking forward to…
The clash between the Rabbitohs and Eels is an important one, in that neither side has lost two games in a row this season. If the Bunnies lose, it could see them knocked out of the Top 4.
My tips for the week…
Storm, Cowboys, Dragons, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Roosters, Titans, Sea Eagles.
The final word…
I don’t know how to police this edict but coaches have got to start giving us more than five word answers. Ricky Stuart sat there like a petulant little child refusing to give any sensible answers to legitimate questions. His press conference lasted 114 seconds. I understand that he was disappointed but c’mon Sticky, Raiders fans deserve more than what you gave them, which was a big – fat – zero!
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.