Blues put faith in Panthers Premiership winners

Penrith captain Isaah Yeo will come off the bench for New South Wales. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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While this year’s NSW team welcomes a new coach and a host of new recruits, there are many familiar faces who have enjoyed the highs and lows of Origin football.

New Blues fullback Dylan Edwards is experiencing everything for the first time, however a number of his Panthers teammates know exactly what to expect when Origin I kicks off on Wednesday night.

“I think this will be my 10th Origin game,” Brian To’o told the Weekender.

“I still get nervous in the lead up to the team being announced. It’s not my spot to have. I still have to earn it throughout the year and that’s something I take a lot of pride in.

“I’m really grateful to be back here again.”

Brian To’o is playing his 10th Origin. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Also lining up for his 10th Origin game for the Blues is backrower Liam Martin. The 27-year-old made his NSW debut back in 2021 and has never missed a game since.

However, things were looking dicey for the ‘Temora Terrier’ last weekend when he suffered a minor leg injury in Penrith’s 42-0 win over the first-placed Sharks.

“I was waiting on some scan results but they came back all good – I’m ready to go,” Martin declared.

“I was a little bit worried because it felt like a hammy injury but it turned out to be a glute strain, so I’ll be fine and right to go.”

Martin said he’s “incredibly privileged” to wear the Sky Blue jumper again, and it’s something he’ll never take for granted.

Journalist Nathan Taylor chats with Liam Martin. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“The whole day you’re just sitting by the phone wondering if you’ll get the call and when you do, it’s the same feeling – excitement, and letting all your family know. I don’t think that feeling will ever fade,” he said.

After an outstanding first half of the season, Panthers co-captain Isaah Yeo was one of the first players picked when new coach Michael Maguire was putting his team together.

While his 12th Origin appearance next Wednesday night will likely be via the bench, Yeo said he can’t wait to return NSW to glory over Queensland.

“You hope that your form at clubland puts you in the conversation to be picked and then off the back of that you hope to get a phone call,” he said.

“I was lucky enough to get that off Madge on Sunday and I’m super excited.

Journalist Nathan Taylor chats with Isaah Yeo. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“It’s always a good time of year, but coming into camp with the new coach, new captain and debutants, there’s a really exciting feel around it.”

The NSW Blues have been based in Leura this week, staying at the Fairmont Resort and training at Blue Mountains Grammar School in Wentworth Falls.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Leura and the waterfalls,” Martin said.

“So, I’m excited to get up there with the boys and get connected as a group. It’s something different and I think it will be great!”

In total, five Panthers will represent the Blues at Accor Stadium on Wednesday night.

Jarome Luai is among five Panthers representing the Blues. Photo: Melinda Jane.
Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Weekender's Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.

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