2022-04-27 05:53:00

New South Wales has won three of the past four Origin series and coach Brad Fittler will have them once again firing for the series opener.

The Maroons have replaced Paul Green with first-year coach Billy Slater and he’s recruited fellow Queensland legends Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston as his assistants.

The mere sight of that trio will still drive fear into the heart of every NSW fan, but generation next has arrived and the Blues boast some of the best players in the NRL.

Nathan Cleary, James Tedesco, Tom Trbojevic, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Isaah Yeo… the current champions have a formidable lineup who aren’t intimidated by the Maroons’ dynasty of yesteryear.

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A frustrating hamstring injury to Latrell Mitchell has likely opened the door for a debutant in the centres and four players are hammering down the selection door.

Mitchell is racing the clock for the June 8 opener but Fittler will be spoilt for choice should his superstar No. 3 not recover in time.

Campbell Graham, Stephen Crichton, Siosifa Talakai and Kotoni Staggs are causing one the biggest selection headaches in recent Origin history.

They’ve all dominated in club land this year, but there’s only space for one.

Here foxsports.com.au breaks down the New South Wales players who are locked in, those with some work to do, and the potential bolters.

LOCKED IN

James Tedesco

Despite other stars gunning for his No.1 jersey, Tedesco is a proven leader in Fittler’s side and will be one of the first picked.

Payne Haas

Arguably the best prop in the game and has taken his game to another level this season.

Nathan Cleary

After returning from a shoulder injury, Cleary has been nothing short of brilliant for the Panthers and will be a certain selection.

Damien Cook

Despite a slow start to the season, Cook has found his groove in recent rounds and his class in the Origin arena will see him take the No.9 jersey.

Cameron Murray

Murray is consistently in the top tier of NRL forwards and a proven performer at Origin level, but like last year will likely be picked to play on an edge.

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Isaah Yeo

Yeo is currently second on the Dally M leaderboard and has steered his pack around the park. He will be one of the first on the teamsheet.

Brian To’o

To’o was outstanding in last year’s Origin series and despite returning from an injury will be picked on the wing.

Tom Trbojevic

Arguably the best player in the NRL right now and last year’s Origin Player of the Series.

Ryan Papenhuyzen

The Storm flyer is almost a certainty to take the utility spot on the bench after a ridiculous start to the season which sees him atop of the tries and points leaderboard.

Latrell Mitchell

If deemed fit, Mitchell is an automatic selection in the centres, but his fitness is the only question mark.

NOTHING GUARANTEED

Jarome Luai

While the Panther halves combination will likely take the No.6 and No.7 jersey, one specific bolter could be fighting for his spot.

Josh Addo-Carr

Addo-Carr has had a tough start to his time at the Bulldogs, but is still a strong chance after his Origin performances in recent years.

Junior Paulo

The prop position is one of the most hotly contested for the Blues, but Junior Paulo is an ever reliable performer and will be in the fold.

Jake Trbojevic

Trbojevic could see himself out of Fitler’s side but will almost certainly be a part of the squad. An indifferent beginning to the 2022 season could see him lose his spot.

Dale Finucane

Has been a revelation for the Sharks and is a natural leader, but the wealth of talent in the Blues forward pack could be his only issue.

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Liam Martin

Played three games off the bench in his debut season and was strong, but the Blues boast a number of elite backrowers ready to compete for his spot.

Daniel Saifiti

An injury hampered his start to the 2022 season and the Knights lack of form could see Saifiti’s spot come under fire. O’Brien hasn’t been starting his star prop with could also cast doubt on his selection.

Angus Crichton

Crichton was dropped to the bench by Trent Robinson, being used as a utility but will likely be in the conversation for Fitler’s side knowing how damaging he can be.

Jack Wighton

Despite performing strongly to start the season, the sheer amount of stars gunning for the utility spot will likely see Wighton unable to force selection.

Tariq Sims

Sims had a difficult start the season, finding himself out of the squad but has been solid since. With the emergence of a number of gun backrowers, Sims may be forced out of the side having not been starting for the Dragons.

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Reagan Campbell-Gillard

Campbell-Gillard has been in fine form the Eels and could add to his singular Origin game in 2018 with a bench spot for the Blues.

Stephen Crichton

Crichton is the frontrunner for Mitchell’s centre spot should he not recover in time, with his Panthers link likely to give him the edge over a number of players vying for that singular spot.

Campbell Graham

Graham has been strong for the Rabbitohs to start the 2022 season and is another player vying for the centre spot. Expect him to be in the extended squad but not make the final 17.

“I would be highly surprised if Latrell Mitchell wasn’t back for Origin, but I do think that if Latrell Mitchell is not available for Origin I am not sure they won’t go without CampBell Graham, he has been insistent for a while,” Ennis said on the Fox League podcast.

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BOLTERS

Nicho Hynes

While his form would suggest he is more than ready for the Origin stage, Hynes find himself in the bolter section because of the sheer amount of talent in the Blues ranks.

Playing in the halves, the former Storm gun has been a revelation in Cronulla, forcing the rest of the league to take notice to the new top four contender.

Hynes sits fifth in the overall points chart with 48, with four try assists but his value to Craig Fitzgibbon’s side is more than just numbers.

He takes the kicking duties and organises his attack and defence brilliantly, far exceeding expectations pundits had of the man who played fullback for Melbourne.

Hynes could be a smokey to play five-eighth next to Nathan Cleary, which could be a popular selection amongst NSW rugby league fans.

Kotoni Staggs

Staggs started the season slow but erupted with an impressive performance against the Roosters, highlighted by a huge fend on his opposing man Paul Momirovski.

The following week, the 23-year-old sliced the Panthers premier defence putting the competition on notice.

While there is a number of centres gunning for that final spot, NRL legend Ryan Girdler named Staggs as his pick for the No.4 jersey after his two strong showings.

“It is going to be hard to dent Kotoni Stagg’s form of late,” Girlder said on Triple M’s The Saturday Scrum.

“I think a lot of his form often gets overlooked, Crichton has been in great touch and he contributes on a weekly basis, he is really consistent, he is a great defensive player and is always looking for work and has a great attitude towards the game.

“He is certainly going to be there or thereabouts, but the way that Kotoni has just single-handedly sort of dismantled the opposition in two consecutive weeks against some quality talented players, he is going to be pushing for a spot as well.”

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Siosifa Talakai

Talakai charged in the Origin frame with a barnstorming first half performance against the Sea Eagles.

Playing out of his natural backrow position, the 25-year-old has made the left centre slot his own under Craig Fitzgibbon.

Talakai recorded 241 run metres, 11 tackle busts, three offloads, three linebreaks, a linebreak assist, two try assists and two tries in a superb display.

“He is so fun to watch, he is an absolute wrecking ball,” Ennis said on the Fox League podcast.

“His performance in that opening 40 minutes the other night was as good as you will ever see… he also showed great skill, he put Mulitalo over for a couple of tries and his skill to kick it back on the inside.”

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Keaon Koloamatangi

The gun Souths backrower has been excellent to start the 2022 season and has been a part of the Blues squad in the past with Brad Fittler rewarding him last year.

The 23-year-old has formed a formidable partnership with Campbell Graham on the Rabbitohs right edge, and the Blues coach may utilise the duo in Game 1 should Mitchell be ruled out.

In seven games this season, Koloamatangi has scored three tries, recorded a try assist, three line breaks, three line break assists and 19 tackle breaks.

Koloamatangi faces stiff competition in the Blues stacked backrow, but could find himself in the starting lineup next to a Rabbitohs teammate.

PREDICTED BLUES TEAM

1. James Tedesco

2. Brian To’o

3. Campbell Graham

4. Tom Trbojevic

5. Josh Addo-Carr

6. Jarome Luai

7. Nathan Cleary

8. Payne Haas

9. Damien Cook

10. Junior Paulo

11. Cameron Murray

12. Keaon Koloamatangi

13. Isaah Yeo

14. Ryan Papenhuyzen

15. Dale Finucane

16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard

17. Angus Crichton

#NSW #Blues #selections #Brad #Fittler #bolters #locked #Nathan #Cleary #Tom #Trbojevic #Cameron #Murray

Source by [graycupnews.com]

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