With so much focus on who hasn’t been picked for State of Origin II many commentators seem to have missed the incoming players, the assets they bring and how they will be deployed for the vital clash in Perth on Sunday.
The NSW selectors have been savaged for not picking a centre who plays in that position on a weekly basis, but the critics seem to be missing the fact that Will Chambers will run onto Optus Stadium with exactly that in his CV.
It should also be noted that if Tom Trbojevic – one of the best support players in the competition – had played in Origin I there is a high likelihood that the Blues would have posted more points in the first half. In that game the opportunities that Damien Cook created in the middle third of the park would have fallen directly into Turbo’s hotspot.
The selection of James Maloney has drawn a lot of scrutiny because his club form has taken a while to trend up this year, but what do we know about Jimmy? He is a winner!
Maloney has a demonstrated ability to step up in the big games, with his focus always on what needs to be done, not what’s happened, and he is the best support playing half in the NRL. Be assured that Damien Cook will be happy with his inclusion.
Maloney’s task is difficult though, as he faces up against a player with a similar mental outlook and genuine skill potency – Queensland’s Cameron Munster.
Munster is definitely one of the players that the Blues need to target if they want to send the series into a decider.
The astonishing thing is that this guy is on an upward trajectory in his representative career, which makes preparing to nullify him a difficult project for the NSW coaching staff.
While the Blues bench lacks a big body, the inclusion of Dale Finucane sees a human with a massive heart who is made for Origin football.
This guy gives Fittler the asset of having a middle-forward who can play as many minutes as required and all at the highest speed and workload.
The quality of his contribution can often be overlooked, however the guys out there on the field will be grateful for his presence because he makes their job easier.
We are talking Origin so the front row needs to be discussed, because there is no victory lap without these players getting their aim right.
Daniel Saifiti makes his debut in this vital match after his club form over the last month went through the roof. His highlights include improved metres, ruck speed and defensive mobility. It now remains to be seen if he can take this into an arena where the intensity is way above weekly NRL.
This task is made a whole lot tougher by the career best form of Josh Papalii, whose defensive whack is slightly shaded by his ball carrying power.
Maroons’ Dylan Napa may have a broken wrist but take it for granted he will be bringing a performance laced with aggression.
The challenge for Napa is to ensure he doesn’t become over-stimulated and operate outside team structures when trying to inflict pain on the opposition.
Ben Hunt’s performance in Origin I was a pivotal in the Maroons victory, the poise, toughness and quality of skill he provided has to go up yet another notch in Perth game.
NSW will be looking to gain the ascendancy through the middle third, as Damien Cook’s danger has been amplified by the Blues new inclusions.
Undoubtedly the most exciting clash of Origin II is going to be between the two guys standing furthest apart – Kalyn Ponga and James Tedesco.
It is hard to know where to start or stop when attempting to explain how these amazing talents can win a game all on their own.
Come the key minutes that will win or lose the game at the back end of halves, Ponga or Tedesco sit in the elite bracket of players who can beat the best defender or defensive structure.
If Origin II goes into the extended arm-wrestle that we so often see when it is all up for grabs then, mark my words, it will be one of these guys who steals the victory.
Buckle up League fans, this game has it all and is going to be one of the best in recent memory.