Origin coach Brad Fittler said earlier in the season that captain Boyd Cordner was the only NSW player who he has already picked in his 17 man team. We discussed the backs yesterday; now for the forwards.
The incumbent is Nathan Peats, but he won’t be there this year. The two best NSW hookers at the moment are Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes. Both are exceptional players, with Cook slightly better in attack and McInnes in defence. Much of the forward pack will be made up of St George players, so this may give McInnes an edge.
Incumbents Andrew Fifita and Aaron Woods will not start this year. Fifita has switched his allegiance to Tonga, while Woods is very out of form. David Klemmer will probably come into the starting side, along with either Paul Vaughan or Tyson Frizzell (the other will come off the bench). The Klemminator has been a shining light for the Bulldogs this year, and his strength will come in handy.
Boyd Cordner will take one of the second row spots, although he probably isn’t the best option. He is, however, the Origin captain. The other will be between Jack de Ballin and Josh Jackson, with whoever is left out on the bench. Wade Graham, if fit, will also be on the bench.
Manly have been in a lot of trouble lately, but none of it can be put down to Jake Trbojevic. He is a powerful runner, a good ball player and looks like a NSW Origin captain in waiting. He will wear the 13 jersey this year, and for many years into the future.
With a number of strong ball players in the forwards who can play in the backline if need be, I expect the Blues to pick four forwards on the bench. As mentioned above, whoever doesn’t start out of the props and second rowers listed will probably play off the bench. If McInnes is picked to start, Cook could be used off the bench to inject an attacking spark in the last 20 minutes, or at the end of each half.