Can this Blues side finally break Queensland’s seven-year stranglehold?
After Laurie Daley’s NSW squad for the first State of Origin match on June 5 was leaked three days before the official announcement, it gives fans and pundits extra time to pour over who has been picked and why.
The announcement of the Blues side for the past seven years has often caused great controversy in the rugby league world as certain contentious positions are crucial if the trophy is again to come south of the border.
Initial impressions of the side, especially in the backline, is that the side is built for speed, with some of the best finishers this season featuring.
While the forward pack is big enough to lock horns with the Maroons up the middle of the field, they also have the ability to be ball players and create attacking chances for the smaller men around them
Fullback – Jarryd Hayne
Hayne was a shoe-in for the number one jumper in the wake of Manly’s Brett Stewart picking up an injury, but that is not to say the Eels custodian was not already at the top of the list.
The returning Josh Dugan put his hand up for the role, but after spending nine weeks out of the game he had no chance.
Plus if Dugan was to be picked, it would have sent a bad message that players’ off-field indiscretions can be forgotten too quickly.
Having shown he is a game-winner in the past, the mercurial talents of Hayne could either make or break the side.
The raking boot of the Parramatta captain also gives the Blues an extra option to get themselves out of trouble at the end of a set if needed.
Wing – Blake Ferguson
One of the new faces in the side, the calls for Blake Ferguson to be handed his first Blues jersey have grown louder with every try – and there’s been a few of them to date this season.
The selection of Ferguson caps a remarkable turnaround in his career, which was nearly needed earlier this season after his now infamous drinking session with Josh Dugan.
The big question mark is how Ferguson withstands the pressure of an Origin game which has been seen to break new players in the past.
Centre – Josh Morris
Josh Morris is the first of the Morris clan to be picked in the side and should prove a handy addition for Daley and the side.
Morris’ form has been a fraction off the pace to date in the NRL this season, but that has largely mirrored the, at times, up and down fortunes of the Canterbury club.
Possessing deceptive strength and flashing speed if he can break the line, Morris will give the Queensland backline plenty of headaches.
Centre – Michael Jennings
Currently going through, arguably, his best season in the NRL, Michael Jennings has been rewarded for his form with another crack at the Maroons.
Like his centre partner Josh Morris, Jennings has the ability to stand in the tackle and brush off bigger defenders where needed.
Thanks to a steamrolling pack of forward at the Sydney Roosters, Jennings has been given the room to show fans what is capable of, something that will hopefully translate again to the rep clash.
Wing – Brett Morris
The other Morris twin, Brett, will line up on the other wing if he is passed fit to play in what is a calculated gamble by Daley.
Every player must be 100 per cent fit going into the crucial first game, and while the Dragons speedster will be given every chance to be proven fit they do have a very worthy back-up waiting in the wings, Nathan Merritt.
However, Morris was named to play for the Dragons in the latest round of the NRL as a late-inclusion.
Five-eighth James Maloney
Again another of the new Roosters for season 2013 that is making every post a winner, James Maloney has built on his playmaking reputation since joining the club from New Zealand.
Maloney has been a big reason why the Roosters have surged up the ladder in the first three months of the NRL season, and Daley has picked on form.
With the ability to go to the line and set up tries from kicks, Maloney has the tools to success at Origin level, again the mental test will be the biggest question for the debutant.
Half-back Mitchell Pearce
Daley has chosen to go with combinations from club sides with Mitchell Pearce set to be handed the number seven jersey.
At times this year Pearce has shown himself to be a world-class halfback, normally when he has played straighter in attack and made the defensive line second guess his next move.
When he has done this, any eventual shifting of the ball to the edges has given his outside men more room to move and possibly a staggered defensive line to break.
This will be crucial for the Blues along with Pearce’s kicking game, which will have to be at its best if they are to create tries and drive the Maroons back as far as possible to start their set of six.