Yes it’s that time of the year again where we start talking about State of Origin selections.
Like last year, the Panthers are expected to contribute at least four and possibly up to six players to the New South Wales Origin squad.
Since everyone is revealing their line-ups for the biggest rivalry in our game, I thought I might as well show my hand and unveil my NSW squad, sprinkled with six Panthers players in the 17-man team.
1. James Tedesco 2. Brian To’o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Tom Trbojevic 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Jarome Luai 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Payne Haas 9. Damien Cook 10. Junior Paulo 11. Cameron Murray 12. Jake Trbojevic 13. Isaah Yeo.
Interchange: 14. Ryan Papenhuyzen 15. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 16. Liam Martin 17. Dale Finucane.
With loyalty playing a big factor for Blues teams in recent years, To’o only has to return to his blockbusting form of last year to be selected on the wing while Stephen Crichton will be picked due to his great start to the season plus the fact that Latrell Mitchell is expected to miss game one with a hamstring injury.
The halves pick themselves and unless there is an injury the winning combo of Luai and Cleary will once again turn out as the number one sky-blue halves pairing.
Isaah Yeo is having the best season of his career and his club combination with team mates Luai and Cleary will see him picked at lock.
Now while Liam Martin has not made any headlines recently, his form for Penrith has been strong enough to help him retain his bench spot for the Blues.
The other Panther unlucky to miss out will be Apisai Koroisau, unless of course Cook somehow misses the match through injury.
All the other players in the team deserve their selection, even captain James Tedesco who has been disappointing this season for the Roosters but there is no way coach Brad Fittler will drop him and nor should he.
‘Turbo Tom’ only has to remain fit once he returns and he will be a certain centre starter, while on the other wing will be Josh Addo-Carr, who has finally turned the corner for his new club.
The front row is also devastating with the biggest human being in the world Payne Hass taking one starting prop spot and Junior Paulo taking the other. Meanwhile the backrow of Cameron Murray and Jake Trbojevic is the perfect combination of great tackling and power running.
There’s no way you can leave out Ryan Papenhuyzen as the back on the bench while Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Dale Finucane are the interchange props.
Peter Lang is an experienced writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades.