Written by John Davidson
As the statistics show, NSW are in the box set to win this year’s State of Origin series and make it three in a row.
Queensland’s massive hold on Origin was finally broken by Brad Fittler’s men in 2018. Fittler changed the mentality, changed the culture and brought in many new faces as the drought was finally broken.
They backed it up last year with another 2-1 series victory. While this year’s contest has been moved to November because of Covid, the Blues remain the clear favourites.
Firstly, they have the momentum of the past two series wins with them. Secondly, the Maroons are somewhat in disarray with coach Kevin Walters departing. They have brought back the old master, Wayne Bennett, to replace him but for now, at least, his whole focus is on South Sydney.
Thirdly, Queensland are struggling for depth. They will be without Kalyn Ponga and Michael Morgan, and have little options at centre. They have picked a lot of rookies and surprisingly left out veteran Josh McGuire.
Fourthly, NSW have by far most of the in-form players in the competition. In nearly every position, the Blues are bursting with eye-catching talent currently in excellent touch.
At halfback they have Nathan Cleary, probably the best player on the planet right now. Cleary is playing out of his skin this season, and is ahead of the Newcastle’s experienced playmaker Mitch Pearce. At five-eighth the red-hot Cody Walker is dueling with the Roosters’ Luke Keary. Jack Wighton is also in tremendous form, but he is likely to feature in the centres for his state.
At fullback the Blues have the phenomenon that is James Tedesco. No need for adjustment there. But pushing for a spot on the utility bench is both Ryan Papenhuzyen and Clint Gutherson, who are enjoying exceptional campaigns, a proverbial embarrassment of riches.
Freddy calls Zac Lomax with the good news! 💙
It’s been quite a journey over the years for Lomax in NSW Pathways Program which has all led to this emotional phone call from Brad Fittler to tell him he’s in the @BrydensLawyers NSW Blues squad!#OriginIsOn pic.twitter.com/cM9WBCyId6
— NSWBlues (@NSWBlues) October 6, 2020
When you look over all the statistical leaders in the NRL this season, almost all are eligible for NSW. Apart from Kyle Feldt, the top try-scorers are all New South Welshmen in Alex Johnston, David Nofoaluma, Josh Addo-Carr and Stephen Crichton. In line-breaks the competition leaders include Johnston, Josh Mansour, Brett Morris and Addo-Carr.
In post-contact metres David Klemmer is number one, but he has been left out by Fittler. No one has engaged the line this year more than Cleary and Keary, while Tedesco is top for tackle breaks, followed by Nofoaluma and Blues flyer Nick Cotric.
With tackle machines like Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes available, along with top support players like Jake Trbojevic, NSW are looking good in the pack as well.
While Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic might be ruled out through injury, the Blues can still call on Wighton, one of the Morris twins, Zac Lomax, Crichton, Campbell Graham or even Brent Naden or Jarrod Croker. All would do a job in Origin.
Up front they have everyone from James Tamou, Angus Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo, Reagan Camobell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson, Nathan Brown, Cameron Murray, Payne Haas, Dale Finicane and Tyson Frizell to choose from. They are bursting at the seams.
Of course, NSW and ‘Freddy’ cannot be complacent or arrogant. Queensland love being underdogs, they revel it. Backs-to-the-wall is their battle cry. Just cast your mind back to the 1995 series.
The Blues just need to keep doing what they have been doing for the past two years, get the balance of the side right and maintain playing with confidence and belief. There have been few years where NSW have had so many things in their favour, and so many key players across the NRL in such electric form.
Next month it is time to take advantage.