Former NSW fullback Anthony Minichiello has urged Blues selectors to consider blooding James Tedesco in Game I of the Origin series this year.
NSW coach Laurie Daley has said Manly’s Brett Stewart, Penrith’s Matt Moylan and St George-Illawarra’s Josh Dugan are the leading candidates to fill the vacancy left by Jarryd Hayne’s departure from the game.
But Minichiello believes 22-year-old Wests Tigers custodian Tedesco is playing the best of the lot.
“The form fullback in my opinion is Tedesco,” said Minichiello.
“Whether Loz (Daley) goes for someone new or not, I’m not sure. I’m hearing that Dugan, his injury is not as bad as first thought. So if he’s fit, he’s played there before, been in that arena.
“And you’ve obviously got Brett Stewart, who’s got the experience there and who can be a key member in that team and add a bit of spark.
“It’s a tough call but Loz is going to weigh up until the last minute and see how injuries play a part, or not.”
The loss of Hayne is just one of numerous selection headaches for the reigning Origin champions, who had previously lost a record eight straight series.
“He (Hayne) is a guy that hardly gets dominated in the tackle,” Minichiello said.
“And that’s important at fullback because you get that Queensland kick-chase come down and what they try and do is lift you up and drag you back. Hayne never did that. It’s important to have a strong fullback.”
Minichiello, who scored eight tries in 11 games for the Blues, said Tedesco had not only had the toughness of Hayne, but enough flair to be an x-factor in the series.
The 22-year-old is the second highest tryscorer after eight rounds.
“It’s not so much the size of the body, it’s just how you run the ball, how you get up from the hits, back up and keep going,” he said.
“I played with him in the Italian squad (in 2013), but he’s been electric this year.
“And he’s a tough kid, he’s a tough player. You need a bit of both in Origin.
“You need to have that flair, but you need to have the toughness, because when they roll down that kick chase, it’s on.
“You need to be running the ball strong at times.
“He’d handle it. Whether or not he gets picked this year or in years to come, I definitely think he’s an Origin player in the future.”
However, Tedesco’s Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor reiterated his call that his fullback was still 12 months away from being ready for Origin.
“It would be great to see him get a full season under his belt and this time next year I’m sure he’ll be in the frame if he keeps his form up,” Taylor said.
“I thought Laurie Daley’s call on (Tedesco not being in contention for the Blues No.1 spot) that was right.”