A fan’s take on whether the NSW selectors struck the right balance for Game 1

It has been three days since the naming of the New South Wales State of Origin team, which has generated much debate on all sides.

So I wanted to contribute my two cents and debate whether the selectors got all the positions right.

Fullback and three quarters

Dylan Edwards, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Joseph Sua’ali’i and Zac Lomax

I was probably leaning towards Teddy as a defender, but surely no one can begrudge Edwards his selection. There is definitely a good feeling between the back five.

They are all capable of running big meters from their own goal and three high ball goals. The downsides are a lack of raw pace and Lomax’s propensity to play big highlights.

It could make him an Origin legend or another Blues player. The selection of Edwards is probably an indicator that NSW plans to play more straight than in recent years.

Who lines up on which side of the field? Crichton and Sua’ali’i have been playing at right centre, although Crichton can play on either side and Sua’ali’i has played at left wing.

It’s a similar story on the wing. To’o plays on the left and Lomax on the right, although To’o can play either. Putting Critta on the left would reunite the Panthers’ old combo.

It would also mean New South Wales has two debutants lining up together, which will definitely give Queensland a target.


Jarome Luai and Nicho Hynes

Jarome Luai looks to pass. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Madge’s first big question will be how much time she will give Hynes in camp to prove he’s over his calf strain. The second question is who is coming for him?

Keary has struggled at number 7 over recent seasons, while Luai has looked increasingly at home there in the absence of Nathan Cleary.

It seems pretty simple that if they line up according to schedule, Hynes plays on the right and Luai plays on the left. Keary and Luai are not so clear.

It seems crazy to have a player like Hynes under such a heavy injury cloud and not have a defense on the bench.

Middle third

Payne Haas, Jake Trbojevic (C) and Cam McInnes

Haas is an automatic selection. He is clearly the Blues’ meter man at forwards with grafts around him. Does that mean Queenslanders can target Haas every time he races?

Jurbo is a great choice as captain, although I’m sure he will share the duties with Isaah Yeo.

He is one of those players who will take his hits, make his tackles and take on the odd Queenslander when necessary. His absence is more noticeable than his presence, but he would still be close to the first striker he would choose.

Obviously, McInnes won’t lead the team in carries or yards traveled, but he will lead the defensive line’s speed and work his backside. He’ll probably get the job of Nicho’s bodyguard too.

Jake Trbojevic looks to pass the ball during game two of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Optus Stadium on June 26, 2022 in Perth, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Jake Trbojevic. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)


Reece Robson

He obviously doesn’t have the attacking abilities of someone like Api Koroisau, but I think he’s unfairly maligned as a defensive 9.

Robson leads hookers in the NRL in meters covered, ranks fourth in try assists and is first in line-break assists. So he’s not just there to tackle.

The question is how effective he will be playing the full 80 minutes. Play the entire game every week, but we know Origin is another 20% faster.

back row

Liam Martin and Angus Crichton

Crichton’s form has been irresistible all season and he is another instant pick.

Martin has dropped a little this season because of me. He has never been a player whose contributions show up big on a stat sheet. He will lead the line speed and make big effort plays when needed.

Martin missed the second half against the Sharks with a hamstring issue. Was it genuine concern or just a precaution?


Isaah Yeo, Haumaole Olakau’atu, Spencer Leniu and Hudson Young

This is where the selections get more interesting. Yeo’s ability to play with the ball is one of his key strengths as a player.

What NSW hasn’t understood is that his best ballplay comes from him playing direct and straight, not sliding around the field trying to pick up ball runners.

Criminally abused, Yeo was finally given a direct role in the third game last year and killed off. Interestingly, Ivan Cleary was an “adviser” in the Blues squad at the time. Coincidence?

Blues' Isaiah Yeo tackled

Isaiah Yeo. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There’s no problem picking Young or Olakau’atu on the bench, but does NSW need both? This gives us a team with four fullbacks who average 66, 68, 79 and 80 minutes per week.

It seems too much. Is this a ducks and drakes choice for Madge? Is one of them there as cover in case Martin isn’t fit? Does one drop out of school to allow for public service coverage, especially for Hynes?

Leniu may not have been the guy I chose, but I can’t argue with his choice. With his long suspension, he has relatively fresh legs.

He becomes a key player in this lineup with his ability to create impact, energy and mix in the middle rotation, unlike the honest work of guys like Jurbo, Yeo and McInnes.

extended bench

Matt Burton, Luke Keary and Mitch Barnett

It’s interesting to see who starts when Hynes is out of form. Is it as simple as Keary being cast as Nicho’s shadow? Probably. It would be a decent reshuffle to move Luai to 7 and Burton to 6.

I don’t see Matt Burton not starting off the bench. How many times does NSW need to be caught without coverage before it learns?

I wouldn’t mind seeing Barnett start at some point during the series, but he’ll likely just be injury coverage for Game 1.

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