The NSW State of Origin team was selected tonight, with Origin veteran Paul Gallen left out as expected. The late prediction by Sydney’s DailyTelegrah had Gallen on the outter, with many fearing the Sharks forward would simply give away too many penalties in the match that is do-or-die for the Blues.
The other big name missing was Michael Jennings. The Penrith try-scoring machine was left out, most likely for his suspect defence – as veterans Timana Tahu and Matt Cooper were given the nod.
Cooper offers solid defence and Tahu offers the hitman reputation that should quell most Queensland raids on the fringes.
The other big shock was the selection of Jamaal Idris on the bench. The Bulldogs rookie has been lifiting his profile almost weekly for the past 18 months – and it’s his playing ability as well as his physical prowess that probably got him over the line in this one.
Should Idris perform well, he should find himself in the Origin mix for many years to come – and NSW obviously wanted to blood him as soon as possible.
The only seemingly confusing selection was of Jamie Lyon at pivot. The Manly star and former Man-of-Steeel Award winner has been a regular at centre for the Sea Eagles and picking a non-specialist five-eighth seems confusing.
For starters Lyon turned his back on NSW in recent years, so there remains a question about his passion for the jersey – and his ability at 5/8 is under question, given his lack of gametime there.
If NSW wanted a game-breaking pivot and were happy to select out of position, why not choose Carney? The former Raider played at no.6 for many years and has the tough, passionate game to take it to the Queenslanders in either a free flowing game or a gutter-fighting affair.
The other option was Trent Barrett. The veteran Shark offers the specialist technique at pivot and brings a top-shelf kicking game to the fold. His understanding with Noddy is also something that works in his favour.
The final questions were around the NSW Origin forward pack. While Weyman and Perry were obvious choices, the backrow caused plenty of debate.
Ben Creagh simply had to be there somewhere. He is a solid, hard-working and tough forward that suits Origin. Waterhouse while in good form could probably consider himself lucky to get a look-in given his age and temperament. Watmough is diamonds or stones, the Manly forward could win NSW the game or he could implode.
If targeted in defence, he could leak – and he can also gift the odd penalty as Gallen does so often.
But given recent form and Origin success, Watmough deserves his shot.
Bench-wise, NSW have done well to Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Jamal Idris. Brett White is improving at Origin level, his intensity last game was highly respectable. But what about Luke Lewis?
Lewis is a ‘safe’ choice. Hard to argue, he rarely misses tackles and tries his guts out – but is he the future? Is he what can turn things NSW’s way?
Greg Bird or Paul Gallen would have probably offered more here – using them from the bench would minimize their penalty risk – but their impact would have certainly been felt.
NSW team for State of Origin I v Queensland on May 26 at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kurt Gidley (c), Jarryd Hayne, Matt Cooper, Timana Tahu, Brett Morris, Jamie Lyon, Brett Kimmorley,
Anthony Watmough, Ben Creagh, Trent Waterhouse, Michael Weyman, Michael Ennis, Josh Perry.
Interchange: Brett White, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jamal Idris, Luke Lewis