Desperate Blues go for another halves pairing
While New South Wales coach Laurie Daley named five debutants and a fourth halves pairing in his four years in charge, rookie Queensland coach Kevin Walters is set to go into his first Origin game in charge with just two newcomers.
Broncos winger Corey Oates and Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill are expected to get the nod when Walters names his first team tonight, replacing injured Melbourne Storm centre Will Chambers and retired Broncos champion Justin Hodges.
In the only other change to the side that humbled the Blues 52-6 in last year’s decider in Brisbane, powerhouse Broncos prop Josh McGuire will regain his spot on the bench in place of Warriors workhorse Jacob Lillyman.
Newcastle Knights utility back Dane Gagai will retain his wing job ahead of Cowboys grand final hero Kyle Feldt, who had been pencilled in to make his debut alongside O’Neill before he made a couple of concerning handling errors in Friday night’s one-point win over the Broncos.
The form of prop Nate Myles at Manly this season has been criticised in some media circles, but Walters and his fellow selectors will show faith in the veteran of 29 quality Origin games for the Maroons.
Nothing more starkly contrasts the selection of both teams than the number of players used in the halves in the past 10 series.
While Queensland has used just five combinations in that time – all of them prompted by injury to either Darren Lockyer (in 2008) or Cooper Cronk – the Blues have tried 17 different pairings with very limited success. And game one in Sydney on June 1 will see that grow to 18 when Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds makes his Origin debut alongside Cronulla playmaker James Maloney.
Reynolds, a member of South Sydney’s 2014 NRL premiership side, said he was confident he could handle the intensity of Origin football.
“I didn’t feel ready until last year. I feel ready now,” he said.
“I have played in a grand final, so I am used to the pressure. I am looking forward to the week and getting out there.”
Daley opted to name an extended squad of 19 players, as well as Penrith forward Bryce Cartwright as a “development player”, although he was subsequently ruled out with a thumb injury.