Sport Rugby League The five men who can save New South Wales

The five men who can save New South Wales

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The overused cliché, attributed to Albert Einstein, of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results being the definition of insanity, could be loosely applied to the selection strategy of the NSW State of Origin selectors.

Laurie Daley and Bob Fulton went with a conservative, defence-oriented squad for the series opener, and it backfired.

Woefully out-of-form halfback Trent Hodkinson and frequent Origin failure Mitchell Pearce unravelled in the second half after a relatively promising opening 40 minutes; the Blues’ much-vaunted big, four-forward bench fizzled; and their three-quarter line barely fired a shot.

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Queensland’s victory was far more convincing – and the ineptitude of NSW’s loss far more demoralising – than the 11-10 scoreline suggested.

The experienced Maroons were well below their best, but the Blues’ indecisive display meant they weren’t forced to be any better.

Incredibly, Daley rubber-stamped the retention of Hodkinson and Pearce during the post-match presser.

Perhaps it was the emotion of a close-fought Origin loss talking, but if Daley’s misguided loyalty is allowed to pervade his selections for game two at the MCG, the Blues will be on an express route to a 3-0 series loss.

The Blues need changes. They need game-breakers, players who possess that bit of spark and unpredictability that can upset the fluency of the well-oiled Maroons machine – qualities arguably only Josh Dugan and David Klemmer exhibited last Wednesday.

We’ve hand-picked five Origin rookies who can plug the holes in NSW’s sinking ship.

Tyson-FrizellTyson Frizell (Dragons)

Regarded by many pundits as an unlucky omission from the Blues’ game one squad, Frizell’s call-up as 18th man at least confirms he is in Daley’s thoughts.

The tackle-busting backrower is exactly the type of player Mal Meninga and the Maroons would hate to see lining up in a sky blue jumper.

Averaging 109 metres and 37 tackles in 2015, the Welsh international was relatively unheralded before this season but has taken his game to a new level.

The 23-year-old has an enforcer streak in his make-up, while his spectacular try assist for Euan Aitken against Canberra in Round 10 showcased his offensive capabilities. A must for the NSW bench.

Bryce-CartwrightBryce Cartwright (Panthers)

The 20-year-old Penrith tyro only has 17 NRL matches to his credit, but he would not look out of place on the representative stage.

Cut down by injury midway through an eye-catching rookie campaign last year, Cartwright has picked up where he left off and the similarities to Sonny Bill Williams at the same are uncanny.

The backrower combines brilliant offloading skills with the footwork and mobility of a centre, and the silky ball-playing and vision of a five-eighth.

Averaging an extraordinary 2.6 offloads in his first-grade career to date, Cartwright would create valuable second-phase play for a NSW side that rarely troubled Queensland’s defence in game one.

Josh-MansourJosh Mansour (Panthers)

Brett Morris, the code’s No.1 winger and a walk-up start for NSW when available, is an outside chance of returning from injury to take Will Hopoate’s spot on the right flank.

Penrith powerhouse Mansour is the ideal candidate to usurp the under-performing Daniel Tupou on the left wing.

The 24-year-old has also been sidelined in recent weeks and was a late withdrawal from last Friday’s clash with Parramatta, but the 2014 Kangaroos debutant should come into consideration if he lines up against Melbourne this week.

Mansour relentlessly goes looking for work – an area Queensland’s three-quarters destroyed NSW in during the series opener – and regularly chalks up 200 metres-plus in a game.

He also knows his way to the try-line, whether it’s through brute force or an acrobatic finish.

Blake-AustinBlake Austin (Raiders)

Mitchell Pearce is likely to get another shot in Melbourne and his club form probably warrants it, even if his appalling Origin resumé should have consigned him to the representative scrapheap long ago.

Trent Hodkinson has to go if NSW is any chance of levelling the series, however, and former Blues five-eighths James Maloney and Jamie Soward are the best replacement options available.

But if Daley and co. really want to shake things up, in-form Canberra No.6 Austin should be considered to partner Pearce.

A robust ball-runner with superb playmaking instincts, the 24-year-old scored a hat-trick on debut for City last month and is continuing to produce the goods for the improving Raiders, racking up a team-high seven tries and 10 line-breaks in 12 appearances, while averaging 84 metres and 19 tackles per game.

A dynamic, fiery and versatile performer who won’t die wondering if given an opportunity to play for his state.

Mitch-ReinMitch Rein (Dragons)

Captain Robbie Farah is in serious doubt for game two with a shoulder injury, but the absence of the veteran Tiger – an automatic inclusion at hooker since 2012 – may prove to be a boon for the Blues if they take a punt on St George Illawarra rake Rein.

Farah has lacked zip this season, while the 25-year-old Rein has belatedly come of age as a vital part of the table-topping Dragons’ success.

He is a workhorse on both sides of the ball and has underlined his dangerous ball-running qualities with four line-breaks to date in 2015.

If his previous squads are any indication, Daley will either look for the ‘safe’ option if Farah is ruled out, with former Origin stalwart Michael Ennis a front-runner, or a baffling leftfield choice like Josh Reynolds.

But if NRL form is the barometer, Rein is the man to fulfil dummy-half duties for NSW.

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