Lang on League: Panthers will do Blues proud

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Five Panthers were picked for the first New South Wales State of Origin team, with the series set to kick-off on Wednesday, June 5 at Accor Stadium. The usual list of suspects were selected in Jarome Luai, Isaah Yeo, Brian To’o, Liam Martin and Dylan Edwards.

Hang on, did I just say the usual suspects? Well, that statement is not completely true because if you look at the Penrith players selected, one name sticks out like the proverbial.

Of course I’m talking about Dylan ‘Pickles’ Edwards. The current Dally M leader and not only the form fullback in the competition but arguably the best player in the NRL.

Bias aside you’d be hard pressed to find any rugby league supporter who wouldn’t agree that Edwards has earned his spot in the Blues team.

According to Fox Sports, Edwards is averaging a career-high 202 run metres and he’s on track to surpass his best-ever stats in try assists, linebreaks, linebreak assists and tackle busts if he stays on the same trajectory for the remainder of 2024.

Meanwhile the selection of Isaah Yeo and Brian To’o was a formality. Both players have been in sensational form all season and were automatic picks.

Jarome Luai’s selection, while thoroughly deserved, was somewhat aided by the ‘Stephen Bradbury’ like collapse of Nathan Cleary, Adam Reynolds and Mitchell Moses, who all succumbed to injury at the same time.

Jarome Luai in action against Queensland. Photo: NRL Images.

Still Luai has been there before and will benefit from past experiences. I expect him to have an absolute blinder for the Blues next Wednesday.

His confidence is sky-high and for good reason.

Finally, and not to denigrate Liam Martin for his selection but Marto can thank his lucky stars that his hatred of the Maroons and his kamikaze style runs during last year’s series helped force Blues coach Michael ‘Madge’ Maguire’s hand, when selecting his forward pack.

By his own admission, Martin’s form has been a little scratchy this season, partially due to several niggling injuries but if Marto can get through the week injury-free, he will be a force to be reckoned with for the Blues.

For the most part, the Blues team, as promised, has been picked on form except for one glaring selection.

How Api Koroisau didn’t get picked at hooker defies logic. I mean Reece Robson is an excellent player but his form for the Cowboys hasn’t been inspiring while Koroisau has been outstanding in a struggling Wests Tigers outfit.

The selection of Joseph Suaali’i is also puzzling because he hasn’t really set the world on fire for the Roosters this season.

All that aside I applaud the selection of Zac Lomax and Angus Crichton who may have been inconsistent last year but have been in superb touch this season.

As for NSW’s chances against another strong looking Queensland side, I think they can beat the Maroons in game one and start the series with a bang! My tip: Blues by 6.

Peter Lang

Peter Lang is an experienced sports writer, who has been covering rugby league for several decades. He first wrote Lang on League for the Weekender in the 1990s, and worked for Panthers on its famous Panthers Magazine for several years.

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