Ahead of the much-anticipated naming of Laurie Daley's NSW side next Monday, we in the NRL.com offices have come up with the Blues team we would pick for State of Origin I.
Read on for who each NRL.com writer would pick and why, and see our combined NSW 17 at the end of the article.
Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Morris, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Trent Hodkinson, 8 Paul Gallen (c), 9 Michael Ennis, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Beau Scott, 13 Greg Bird. Interchange: 14 Jack Bird, 15 Josh Jackson, 16 David Klemmer, 17 James Tamou.
Trent Hodkinson has not looked fully fit to me all season and I'd only be prepared to take him into Origin is his knee is 100 per cent. If he's fit, I think the balance of he and James Maloney is the right one and both have been in the arena before. I'm loving the extra dimension Greg Bird is bringing at lock this year for the Titans and think that could be crucial in Origin and he, Beau Scott and Paul Gallen can set an aggressive tone for the Blues. Michael Ennis is playing too well not to pick and Jack Bird's ability to cover as many as six positions makes him almost irresistible on the bench.
Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Morris, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 James Tamou, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Greg Bird, 12 Beau Scott, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Boyd Cordner, 15 Andrew Fifita, 16 Trent Merrin, 17 Jack Bird.
The vexed fullback spot simply has to go to Dugan in my opinion. Talk of moving him to right centre and dropping Josh Morris – one of the Blues' very best over the past few years – borders on insanity. The wing spots go to Josh Mansur – who is reliable and gets through huge work on kick returns and early set hit-ups – and Blake Ferguson. Fergo has had his defensive issues in the centres but as he showed in the recent Test, he is simply elite on the wing. Great under a high ball, tall, powerful, athletic and hard to handle. For the six and seven, I've gone for what I think is a) the two best halves in NSW currently and b) a combination that will complement each other beautifully. They haven't played together before but James Maloney has played Origin and Adam Reynolds has won a grand final. Defence may be an issue with Hodkinson and Pearce not there but Beau Scott has shown he can stiffen an edge and protect a playmaker like no-one else in the game right now. Laurie Daley has hinted at returning to a utility on the bench and despite the claims of Blake Austin and Josh Reynolds, Jack Bird looks an Origin type and can cover anywhere from 1-7 in the backline if needed or come on and cause some headaches as a wide back-rower or dosome dummy half work.
Martin Gabor, National Correspondent
1 Matt Moylan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Paul Gallen (c), 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Beau Scott, 13 Greg Bird. Interchange: 14 David Klemmer, 15 James Tamou, 16 Bryce Cartwright, 17 Luke Lewis.
It worked for the Kangaroos, so why can't it work for the Blues? Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson showed they can be a force on the right edge and I'm tipping Laurie Daley to go that way for Game One. Instead of going like-for-like, I'm replacing Dugan's size at the back with the finesse of Matt Moylan. He'll be joined by fellow Panthers Josh Mansour and Bryce Cartwright in making their Origin debuts; the latter just edging Jack Bird on the bench. It was a toss-up between Luke Lewis and Trent Merrin for the final spot; Lewis's utility value and irresistible form too good to overlook.
Steven Ross, North Queensland Correspondent
1 Matt Moylan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Dugan, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Ennis, 10 James Tamou, 11 Beau Scott, 12 Boyd Cordner, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Bryce Cartwright, 15 David Klemmer, 16 Andrew Fifita, 17 Tyson Frizell
The Blues should want to make this a proverbial 'brains v brawn' contest. Queensland has the better halves – and will have for the foreseeable future – while NSW's mission should be to grind them into submission. James Roberts would be cool at right centre, but Origin is not an open-plan game. In the halves I have simply gone for NSW's best two; it's the safe bet. Matt Moylan's playmaking will complement the running halves and Michael Ennis is a touch craftier and better with the boot, so he gets the nod over Robbie Farah.
Jack Brady, National Correspondent
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Michael Jennings, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Greg Bird, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 James Tamou, 11 Beau Scott, 12 Boyd Cordner, 13 Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14 Trent Merrin, 15 Tyson Frizell, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Jack Bird.
Any suggestion that Josh Morris should be dropped from the NSW Origin team is ludicrous. His selection makes it almost impossible to select Lachlan Coote though which pains me greatly. I'm also a massive fan of Greg Bird playing in the halves – mainly because having him and David Klemmer on the paddock at the same time excites me massively. Tyson Frizell, Jack Bird, Adam Reynolds and Josh Mansour are worthy Origin debutants at the expense of Ryan Hoffman, Trent Hodkinson, Josh Jackson and Will Hopoate.
Eden Richards, Queensland Correspondent
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Will Hopoate, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Morris, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Ennis, 10 James Tamou, 11 Greg Bird, 12 Beau Scott, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Bryce Cartwright, 15 Trent Merrin, 16 Ryan Hoffman, 17 David Klemmer.
Josh Dugan simply has to play fullback. As a Queenslander I hope they don't pick him at the back because he is just so damaging running the ball back from his own line. Josh Morris deserves to keep his spot in the backline as he always performs well for his state. James Maloney is in superb form and I believe Adam Reynolds deserves a chance to play Origin – he should have been picked years ago. Michael Ennis has been instrumental for the Sharks this season and that sees him picked in front of Robbie Farah. Bryce Cartwright is made for Origin and he will be a scary prospect for tired Queensland forwards late in the game. He can play anywhere and will cover the utility role.
Dominic Brock, Production Editor
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Michael Jennings, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Ennis, 10 James Tamou, 11 Beau Scott, 12 Greg Bird, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Trent Merrin, 15 Boyd Cordner, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Tyson Frizell.
Though I'd like to see the excellent Lachlan Coote get a run at the back it's hard to go past the rock-solid Josh Dugan, whose fierce running game makes up for his lack of playmaking skills at this level. Josh Morris keeps his spot for his ability to contain Greg Inglis. I've gone for an old-fashioned bench with four big men to capitalise of the Blues' edge on Queensland up front, so the attacking spark will need to come from the spine where I've picked in-form Sharks James Maloney and Michael Ennis plus Adam Reynolds, whose kicking game would be crucial in a tight battle.
Adrian McMurray, Producer
1 Josh Dugan, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Michael Jennings, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 James Maloney, 7 Adam Reynolds, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 James Tamou, 11 Beau Scott, 12 Boyd Cordner, 13 Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: 14 Trent Merrin, 15 Greg Bird, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Wade Graham.
While it would be tempting to move Josh Dugan into the three-quarter line to accommodate Lachlan Coote or James Tedesco, I feel like he is the best man for the job at the back. After making his Kangaroos debut this year, Blake Ferguson comes in on the wing. Adam Reynolds and James Maloney get the nod as part of a new-look halves pairing, while Greg Bird re-joins the side and Wade Graham makes the bench for what would be his Origin debut.
Andy Bryan, Deputy Editor
1 Josh Dugan, 2 James Roberts, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Josh Morris, 5 Josh Mansour, 6 James Maloney, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 James Tamou, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Beau Scott, 12 Boyd Cordner, 13 Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14 Matt Moylan, 15 Andrew Fifita, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Trent Merrin, 18 Bryce Cartwright, 19 Jack Bird.
Plenty of tough decisions here and it all stems from how Laurie Daley wants to use his bench. There are no shortage of forwards in NSW, but I've included Matt Moylan as a utility in the No.14 role. It means players like Jack De Belin and Josh Jackson may be unlucky to miss out. James Roberts needs to be in the 17 somewhere – his raw pace could add something unpredictable to the NSW side – while for the much discussed halves partnership I've gone with the best two players available, James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce.
NRL.com's combined NSW team
1 Josh Dugan
2 Josh Mansour
3 Josh Morris
4 Michael Jennings
5 Blake Ferguson
6 James Maloney
7 Adam Reynolds
8 Aaron Woods
9 Robbie Farah
10 James Tamou
11 Beau Scott
12 Boyd Cordner
13 Paul Gallen (c)
14 Trent Merrin
15 Greg Bird
16 David Klemmer
17 Andrew Fifita
This article first appeared on NRL.com