Lang on League: My Blues team for Origin I

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With Nathan Cleary likely to be sidelined for the entire upcoming State of Origin series I can only see four Panthers players making the team for the opening match on Wednesday, June 5 at Accor Stadium.

Dylan Edwards, Brian To’o, Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin all grab a spot in the 17 while I think Jarome Luai and Izack Tago haven’t done enough to get into the side.

Before I go through my Panthers selections here is my NSW team for game one, barring further injuries of course.

1. Dylan Edwards 2. Brian To’o 3. Stephen Crichton 4. Bradman Best 5. Zac Lomax 6. Nicho Hynes 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Payne Haas 9. Api Koroisau 10. Jake Trbojevic 11.Angus Crichton 12.Haumole Ola’Kau’atu 13. Isaah Yeo.

14. Cameron McInnes 15. Liam Martin 16. Stefano Utoikamanu 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard.

Dylan Edwards bags a try. Photo: NRL Images.

With Dylan Edwards leading the Dally M voting by six points after 10 rounds, it’s time to cut the cord with James Tedesco, make the hard decision and drop him. Well, if we’re being truthful, it’s not really that hard of a decision.

Put simply, NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire needs to bite the bullet and pick the best player in the NRL at fullback.

Brian To’o on one wing and Isaah Yeo at lock pick themselves. Their form for Penrith so far this season has been exceptional.

To’o just keeps eating up the metres and making multiple tackle breaks every game while Yeo is in career best form. With Cleary gone for the next eight weeks Yeo will have his hands on the ball more often and that can only be a good thing for the Blues.

Brian To’o with the Brad Fittler Medal last year. Photo: NRL Images.

Finally, and just by the skin of his teeth, I’d put Liam Martin on the bench. While his form hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season, Martin is built for Origin and could well be a one-man wrecking ball when bought into the game against the Banana Benders.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a spot for either Jarome Luai or Izack Tago. Luai has had a slow start to the season but could really shine over the next few months in the absence of Nathan Cleary. Tago started the season strong but his form has fallen away in his last few games and I couldn’t pick him ahead of either Stephen Crichton or Bradman Best.

The rest of the team picks itself, well kind-of.

Re-sign Luke Garner

I believe that Luke Garner is one of the most improved players in the team this year and thoroughly deserves to be re-signed for at least two more seasons.

We need to stop looking at other players like Angus Crichton or Jaydn Su’A and sign Garner first. It just makes sense. He knows the systems, he knows the culture, he runs great lines and I would hate to see him go to another team and shine.

If you’re only as good as your last game, then Garner is greatness. Against the Dogs he ran for 112 metres, made 38 tackles and had eight tackle-breaks.

Of course, I’m not suggesting Penrith give him a million dollars a season but I’m sure a decent salary agreeable to both parties could be negotiated.

Garner came to Penrith last year on less than what he was on at Wests Tigers to reunite with coach Ivan Cleary and become a better player.
Mission accomplished.

Luke Garner after winning the 2023 NRL Grand Final with Penrith last year. Photo: NRL Images.

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