Written by Joshua Dean
The 2020 State of Origin series will go down as one of the most unique series in its history.
Instead of being played midseason, the two states will battle in November which has created many selection headaches for both coaches.
One of the biggest storylines leading into the series is the right centre position for New South Wales. With Tom Trbojevic and Kotoni Staggs both being unavailable, Brad Fittler has a big decision to make. It looks like Raiders star Jack Wighton will remain at left centre, so the pressure is on to find an Origin-ready centre.
Lomax has already been selected in the New South Wales squad. He was a shining light in a poor Dragons team, with 13 tries and seven try assists in 20 matches this season. The most promising sign is that his tackle efficiency was 88%, which ranks the best for centres. He looks like a very exciting prospect for the Dragons, NSW and possibly even Australia. However, on the flipside it may be a bit too early for Lomax to debut in Origin. He had the most errors in the NRL this season by far (40), with 36 being handling errors. Origin is all about territory, you cannot afford to lose the ball in your own half, because it puts your side under major pressure. Lomax looks like a future superstar, however, It may be slightly too early for him to make his debut for NSW in 2020.
Crighton burst onto the scene this season in minor the premiership-winning Panthers side. In 20 appearances, he has scored 16 tries, an incredible feat for a person who only turned 20 years old last month. His attacking numbers are off the charts for a centre, averaging 115 running metres and 2.2 tackle breaks a game. In an Origin series, the big intercepts can swing a game and Crighton recorded the most intercepts this season with four. We have seen one intercept try win Origin matches, especially Dane Gagai in the past few series. He could possibly make the difference for New South Wales, due to how close rep games always are. Crighton is a really good candidate for this vacant spot and we could see him playing rep footy for years to come.
2020 has been a year to remember for Eels Captain Clint Gutherson. He recorded 10 tries and 17 try assists, while also averaging 190 running metres a game this season. His leadership was also impressive throughout. There is now no doubt that Gutherson is a world-class fullback that is good enough for rep footy. However, he has never proven himself at the centre position. Fittler will have to decide if there is a major difference between playing fullback and centre. Making the switch may be tough in such a short period of time, but Gutherson has the experience and IQ to do it.
Jarrod Croker has had another extremely underrated season for the Raiders. He only recorded five tries and eight try assists, however, he does things that stats do not show. It is not a coincidence that he is always in the right position at the right time, especially on defence. Croker is the most solid and consistent candidate. His NRL experience for a 30-year-old is incredible, having already played 278 NRL games. The amount of major finals games he has played will set him up well for Origin. His kicking game could also add another option for the Blues. He may not be the prettiest and most exciting player, however, I think he is the most Origin-ready player.