NSW will look to restore pride in their jerseys when they return to Sydney for the State of Origin dead-rubber match next month.
The Blues’ attack has been criticized for its inability, in the first two matches, to break through the Queensland defensive line. Only four tries were scored in 160 minutes.
NSW’s defensive structure was thrown into chaos by the early injury of Tom Trbojevic during game two. The Maroons, led by captain Daly Cherry Evans and fullback Reece Walsh’s blistering pace, took advantage of every opportunity to score 32 points.
Would a change in personnel lead to a change in fortune for the Blues? Michael Chammas looks at the biggest selection conundrums ahead of game three on Saturday, July 12.
After two poor performances by his lofty standards in the Blues’ first two games, there have been calls to remove Blues skipper James Tedesco from the team.
Brad Fittler is unlikely to drop his captain. Tedesco, who will be remembered as one of NSW’s greatest players ever, has earned the right to bow out at his home instead of being a mid-series injury.
If Fittler decides to axe his captain for the third game, South Sydney’s Latrell Mitchel, if he is fit, would be an obvious replacement. The only question mark about Mitchell is his fitness.
He hasn’t been able to play for a month due to a calf problem, and isn’t known for his constant efforts. He is a dynamic player who can make an impact, but the intensity and pressure of Origin will test him.
Dylan Edwards is the other option. He is arguably the best fullback in the competition, and would look great in a Blues jersey. Fittler’s loyalty to Penrith players may deter some.
Fittler must decide whether to keep the incumbent Mitchell Moses, or recall Nicho Hynes, who was dumped by the Sharks.
Moses was solid for the losing side, but his team’s inability convert pressure into points is a reflection of the Eels halfback.
Hynes was also dropped from the team for his brief cameo in game one.
Adam Reynolds, who is in great form, would be a good option for a left-field solution, even if it was a short-term fix without a long-term view. Reynolds was seen as the better option by many heading into the second game. You could pair him with his former South Sydney teammate Cody Walker and have a Rabbitohs-dominated side.
In a dead rubber it would be difficult to justify selecting a 33-year old Walker alongside Reynolds who turns 33 two days before the last game of the series in Accor Stadium.
Isaah Yao was arguably the best lock forward during the last few seasons. But he looked predictable and half a step slower than the Queensland forwards in this year’s Origin Series.
Cameron Murray deserves to be in the team. However, NSW looked like a much better team when Murray was on the field. Murray played only 33 mins in game two, which is not enough time for a player with his caliber.
Murray should start game three and add some spark to a team that has been largely unsuccessful. Yeo has played all 160 minutes in the series. Murray has only played 82 minutes.
Manly’s Tom Trbojevic will miss the rest of the year after tearing his pectoral muscles in the first minutes of game two. The Blues are forced to make a change.
Latrell Mitchell had been scheduled to play in both of the first two matches, but he opted out due to injury. If he is fit, he can return to the team. Stephen Crichton is still a question mark.
He was one of NSW’s best players, but in a losing team, he may be replaced by fresh blood.
Crichton was initially selected ahead of South Sydney’s Campbell Graham for the first game, but a serious injury ended his stay at camp.
If Graham joins the team, it’s not surprising to see the Blues considering Crichton as a wing. This would put enormous pressure on Canterbury’s Josh AddoCarr to keep his position.
Crichton’s height and size will help the Blues come out of their half and also combat aerial threat from Queensland winger Xavier Coates.
The most heated debate in game two was probably the selection and use the interchange. The decision to not pick a back from the bench backfired when the replacement hooker Damian Cook was thrown in the centres to cover for Trbojevic.
NSW was lacking the speed and spark of Cook in the middle. Hooker Reece Robson had a great debut, but was exhausted and unable to run.
Hynes is likely to be considered, but there are some forwards who may sneak into the team. Spencer Leniu of Penrith is in the mix for selection. He could beat out Stefano Utoikamanu. South Sydney’s Keaon Kooamatangi, a wrecking ball, is also being considered.
Liam Martin was one of NSW’s top players in the first two matches and is likely to be pushing hard for a starting position.
State of Origin is exclusively available on Channel 9 and9Now .
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