The disappointing starts that Penrith and Brisbane have made to the NRL season look set to see their contributions to the Origin teams collapse this year. In 2018 the Panthers had four players in the Blues squad in Nathan Cleary, James Maloney, Tyrone Peachey and Reagan Campbell-Gillard while the Broncos provided the Blues with James Roberts and the Maroons with Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire. This year, none of those seven would be picked for their state on form.
Coaches Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters have both spoken about the importance of showing loyalty to the players they selected last year, but the form of some teams looks set to force their hands. Of the Panthers contingent only Cleary looks likely to play Origin again, as he has been playing reasonably well in a very poor team.
The Broncos are in an even worse situation, with potentially no players for either state coming from the club that traditionally provides the bulk of the Queensland side. McGuire has moved to North Queensland, where he has hardly set the world on fire, while Roberts is set to be dropped this week amid rumours that he is about to leave for Souths and McCullough, who has also been very poor this season, has injured his knee badly.
The Roosters look like being the beneficiaries of the collapses at Penrith and Brisbane, with five-eighth Luke Keary the favourite to take Maloney’s place. Keary was the Clive Churchill medallist last year, as he forced his way into the starting line-up of the national side, and he has picked up this year where he left off.
If Keary is picked he will mainly play on the left side of the field alongside club teammates Latrell Mitchell, who is the incumbent centre and is in terrifying form, and Boyd Cordner, who is the state captain and second-rower. Roosters and Blues fullback James Tedesco mainly plays on that side as well. The club combination could tempt Fittler to pick Daniel Tupou, who has played Origin before, as his wing replacement for the injured Tom Trbojevic.
And spare a thought for Queensland coach Kevin Walters – at least Fittler’s selection headaches come from too many players banging the door down. His prospective pick for captain, Daly Cherry-Evans, is injured and the three Queensland NRL clubs are all sitting at the wrong end of the ladder, and de factor Queensland feeder side the Melbourne Storm will probably only provide five-eighth Cameron Munster – who is at least in form.