The decision by NSW State of Origin selectors has never been more important. Faced with a virtual Australian side in the Queensland ranks, if the NSW selectors get it wrong they will feel the wrath from the likes of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk, Justin Hodges, Jonathan Thurston, Scott Prince – the list just rolls on and on. Queensland have a massive stockpile of talent and if the NSW guys pick the same bunch, they will simply get the same results.
In the opinion of the Grubber, the NSW side need to pick a few bolters – guys that could turn the tide their way.
Here’s who the Grubber would pick for NSW and why;
Fullback: Brett Stewart (Manly) – His return to the limelight was highly impressive. He showed no ill-effects and was up to match fitness OK. Should he be injured or rubbed out of the game, a ready made replacement in Wade McKinnon should get his shot. Stewart is fast, covers well in defence and would provide a nice attacking option for NSW.
Winger: Nathan Merritt (Souths) – The dimutive Souths flanker does have his critics, but regardless, he is fast, good in the air for a smaller guy and the bottom line is – he can score tries. This is the kind of ‘X-Factor’ that NSW Origin needs. If they choose a defensive winger purely for protection, they won’t score the points they need to win.
Centre: Matt Cooper (Dragons) – The Dragons centre picks himself, great footwork, finds the try line and is safe as houses in defence. A good team mate with experience, only injury can stop this man from taking his place in the game.
Centre: Michael Jennings (Panthers) – Another pure try scoring machine. Along with Merritt, Jennings can also add the strike power on the edges. If the NSW forwards can lay a good, hard platform – watch this guy burn up the turf. Might be young, but time to blood some serious talent here.
Winger: Jarryd Hayne (Eels) – With David ‘Wolfman’ Williams having injury problems and being unable to get consistent game time, the next option is Hayne. The talented Eels man may have had his problems in the halves – but he is a natural individual out on the edges. Has good footwork, speed, defends well and wasn’t overawed by Origin last year. Done enough to get his spot.
Five-Eight: Trent Barrett (Sharks) – The returning Barrett has the ability and the relaxed attitude to do the job. He’s played at every level and hasn’t lost his speed or vision. With his football brain and good team mates around him – he can do wonders.
Halfback: Brett Kimmorley (Bulldogs) – While everyone is watching Wallace, Mullen and Pearce – the experienced Noddy is the only choice. He has his critics, but this guy is by far the best no.7 in the game. Rarely flustered, his kicking game and calm nature has guided the Dogs to near the top of the NRL table. Combined with Trent Barrett – he can blow the Queensland Origin side away.
Lock: Luke O’Donnell (Cowboys) – The Cowboys forward hasn’t been in the best form, but if NSW are serious about making impact – they need this guy. He is a timebomb of the Carl Webb variety. O’Donnell and his take no prisoners attitude will give the thrust and dominance in the forwards no doubt. A must pick in the Grubbers book.
2nd Row: Anthony Watmough (Manly) – Can play the role of enforcer, but also has good mobility and skills for a backrower. Been at the highest level in recent times and won’t be overawed. Done more than enough to make the grade for NSW Origin. Considered Chris Houston, but he is still a little green.
2nd Row: Nathan Hindmarsh (Eels) – The experienced Hindmarsh, much like Fitzgibbon last year deserves a recall. At least one player like Hindy or Fitzy are needed to do the hard work no one else wants to. His passion and sheer determination will ensure that tackles are made, right until the final siren. A worker thats needed in the trenches.
Prop: Luke Bailey (Titans) – When fit, he remains the best NSW Prop available. Gritty, metre eating talent that should remain in the side. Been there before, knows what needs to be done.
Hooker: Michael Ennis (Bulldogs) – His performance against the Bunnies just won him an Origin jersey in the eyes of the Grubber. While Robbie Farah still is the most skilful no.9 NSW could pick – the cattle dog mindset coupled with the vision of Ennis get him the gig. This guy is the ‘anti-Queensland’ – he will get under their skin and pose the biggest threat to them. An absolute must selection for the Blues.
Prop: Michael Weyman (Dragons) – Another bolter, but big Weyman is another guy just made for State of Origin. A massive unit, he has gained more mobility, minutes and discipline under Wayne Bennett and needs to be selected. He will tear the Queensland forwards apart and allow the NSW backs to have their shot at winning the game. Weyman is another must selection for the Blues.
Reserve: Kurt Gidley (Knights) – Mr Utility. Not only can he play anywhere, but his ability will be explosive from the bench. Experienced, driven and another guaranteed selection for the NSW side.
Reserve: Keith Galloway (Wests) – The youngster for the Wests Tigers has done his time and is ready. Been around for a little while now and is close to the best forward in the comp. Makes massive metres, no fuss and will not take a backward step.
Reserve: Craig Wing (Souths) – A similar player to Gidley, can offer so much. Can be injected for points, or can cover any role needed from the halves to any backline position. In great form and highly fit. Smart choice here.
Reserve: Chris Heighnington (Wests) – A bolter choice here, but this hard working forward is another made for Origin. He can give good service in the forwards when subbed on, and will play with major passion. Would be great to see this guy on the big stage.