The New South Wales Blues have tonight named a hugely refurbished squad to tackle the dominant Queensland Maroons in game one of the 2018 State of Origin series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday 6 June.
New coach Brad Fittler named a record 11 debutants for game one, with only six players remaining from the side which lost game three, and a third consecutive Origin shield last year.
Captain Boyd Cordner has been named in the second row despite concerns over his form with the inconsistent Sydney Roosters throughout the 2018 campaign, while club teammate James Tedesco has retained the fullback role in the face of a significant challenge from Manly’s Tom Trbojevic, who was named out of position on the wing as one of the plethora of debutants.
Trbojevic’s brother Jake has also been retained from the 2017 series, named on the bench with St George Illawarra Dragon’s star Jack De Belin preferred as the starting lock. De Belin did exit Saturday night’s clash with the Panthers due to injury, however, and will be monitored for fitness right up until kick off in Melbourne.
Hard-man David Klemmer has also kept his spot in the side despite the woefully poor form of his club side, the Bulldogs. Canterbury have had a nightmare 2018 season and while teammate Aaron Woods seems to have paid the price with his axing, Klemmer has done enough in a limited side to get the nod.
Only Tyson Frizell and James Maloney remain as incumbent selections. Frizell has been named in the back-row alongside Boyd Cordner while Maloney will partner Penrith teammate Nathan Cleary in the halves.
Cleary and Maloney have both played starring roles in Penrith’s stunning and dramatic rise to the summit of the NRL ladder and have been rewarded for their outstanding play and their growth as a halves pairing in limited time.
Maloney had a slowish start to his time at Penrith but really came into his own with Nathan Cleary out due to a knee injury. Since his return, Cleary has been in fine form, most notably in a 28-2 drubbing of the Dragons and the pair look to have found a rare and exciting chemistry.
At just 20-years-old, Cleary represents a possible long-term answer at halfback for the Blues but with his unusual poise and calmness for his age, he also appears to be the sort of player not rattled by expectation or pressure.
Maloney, on the other hand, is New South Wales’ most creative and experienced playmaker, meaning much of the directional work will fall on his shoulders.
The new faces
Aside from Tom Trbojevic and Nathan Cleary, New South Wales will also welcome a raft of new faces into the fold. At the annual True Blues black tie dinner held at The Star in Sydney, Brad Fittler confirmed the long-awaited debuts of future stars like Damien Cook, Latrell Mitchell and James Roberts,
Roberts and Mitchell represent a desire for speed and energy across the backline and are further helped in this regard by the addition of Melbourne’s try-scoring sensation Josh Addo-Carr and the aforementioned Trbojevic who both possess plenty of speed.
Beating the Maroons could have more to do with scoring points than restricting them and with the side as named, the Blues pose a serious threat to score on both flanks as well as through the middle of the ruck where the likes of James Tedesco could feed off the service of Cleary, Maloney or Cook.
In case of any injury concerns, Canberra’s Nick Cotric and St George Illawarra’s Tariq Sims have also met up with the squad in Sydney.
In the engine room, Dragon’s standouts Jack De Belin and Paul Vaughan will make their much-anticipated debuts at Origin level, as will South Sydney’s explosive backrower Angus Crichton and Penrith wrecking ball Reagan Campbell-Gillard who has been close to the form front rower in the game in recent weeks.
Perhaps the most interesting player on the field come game one could be the man named in the Blues’ number 17 jersey, Tyrone Peachey.
Having committed his mid-to-long term future to the Gold Coast Titans after this season, Peachey has been in career best form at Penrith and been able to showcase his unique ability as one of the most adaptable utility players in the game.
Peachey has played off the bench, in the halves and in the centres for Penrith so far in 2018 and been a vital weapon in attack for Anthony Griffin’s side.
Origin games are won or lost on just a few moments and in Tyrone Peachey, Brad Fittler has the sort of dynamic superstar that can come into a game and take hold of those moments.
The squad: James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters), Tom Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters), James Roberts (Brisbane Broncos), Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm), James Maloney (Penrith Panthers), Nathan Cleary (Penrith Panthers), David Klemmer (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Penrith Panthers), Boyd Cordner (c) (Sydney Roosters), Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jack De Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons), Paul Vaughan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jake Trbojevic (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Angus Crichton (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers), Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Nick Cotric (Canberra Raiders).
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