The New South Wales Blues are looking down the barrel of their ninth consecutive State Of Origin series loss and in an attempt to shake things up coach Laurie Daley has made a number of notable changes to the team that will take on the Queenslanders in Brisbane on Wednesday May 28 for Game 1.
In the biggest shake-up to the Blues team that played during the 2013 series, Daley has dropped James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce from the halves and gone with the Canterbury Bulldogs duo of Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson.
The Bulldogs have won eight from 10 games played this NRL season, including seven on the trot, to earn top spot on the ladder and favouritism in the premiership markets.
It is this energy, form and ultimately results that Daley is hoping the two can bring to the Origin arena for an injury-plagued New South Wales squad.
Pearce has been a lucky charm for the Queenslanders actually, and so his booting from the team due to off-field controversy could just help the Blues start to turn the table.
Reynolds is tough and loves the game he plays, and together with Hodkinson the two could bring that level of cohesion the Cockroaches have lacked in recent series.
Another notable omission was 2013 fullback Josh Dugan, Daley finding no room for the Dragon after going with Eels superstar Jarryd Hanye in the No. 1 jersey.
The Hayne Plane has been soaring high this season and looking past him selection would have been a big mistake.
The Morris twins are both also in the mix, Brett out on the win with Sydney Roosters’ winger Daniel Tupou, and Josh in the centres looking to hold out Greg Inglis for Queensland.
Tupou makes his New South Wales rep debut in Game 1 and has some freakish ability if he can keep his nerves in check especially first-up in front of a hostile sea of Maroons supporters.
Joining Morris in the centres meanwhile is speedster Michael Jennings whose lead-up has been plagued with injury.
There’s also a slight injury concern around Beau Scott in the second row, the Newcastle player missing Monday night’s clash against the Sea Eagles due to a minor problem with his abdominals.
Other notable Blues players in the starting line-up are then Tigers Robbie Farah in the number nine, another borderline selection after an elbow injury at the start of the month, and of course the forceful skipper Paul Gallen who copped a lot last year.
The Blues bench then features Trent Merrin who was lucky to be selected, mongrel player Anthony Watmough, the Sharks’ Luke Lewis and Tony Williams who earned a reselection after time out of Origin.
New South Wales have a quality line-up but there are injuries and other issues going on, so whether they’re strong enough against the cohesive Maroons is the big question.
The bookies don’t rate them for the overall series ($2.60 to Queensland’s $1.53) or in Game 1 ($2.90 to $1.42) but if you do head to Ladbrokes.com.au and back your boys at the best prices!
Game 1 State Of Origin Team – New South Wales
1. Jarryd Hayne, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Michael Jennings, 5. Daniel Tupou, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. James Tamou, 11. Ryan Hoffman, 12. Beau Scott, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14. Trent Merrin, 15. Anthony Watmough, 16. Luke Lewis, 17. Tony Williams. Coach: Laurie Daley.