With three impressive performances under his belt, Penrith Panthers winger Josh Mansour was another of our star debutants in 2016.
Having represented Lebanon, Australia and KARI City Origin in the past – along with 73 games for the Panthers since his NRL debut in 2012 – Mansour was rewarded with a sky blue jumper ahead of game I this year, completing a rise to the Origin stage along with teammate Matt Moylan. The 26-year-old had averaged 158 metres per game until that point and finished the season with the second-most metres, third-most line-breaks and fifth-most runs in the NRL.
Debuting in the pressure cooker that is State of Origin is never easy, but the selection of Justin O’Neill and Dane Gagai for the Maroons meant that Mansour would come up against a relatively inexperienced Queensland right edge, with just one Origin appearance between the pair. Mansour held his own in that match and while a single slip-up in defence in the shadows of half-time would cruelly cost NSW the game, few people were left doubting Mansour’s future in the Origin arena.
The St Johns and Kingsgrove junior was deservedly selected again for Origin II and travelled to Suncorp Stadium in a bid to save the series. Unfortunately, the Maroons’ targeting of their right side resulted in a Gagai hat-trick, who saved his best game of 2016 for the vocal Brisbane crowd. It would be harsh to blame Mansour for all three of those, however, with only the second coming off a genuine misread, while his 146 metres matched his Queensland counterpart’s.
There were no signs of a lack of confidence for the winger in the series finale, as the VB Blues successfully prevented a Queensland whitewash. Mansour’s tally of 79 metres was his lowest of any game in 2016, but the match finished on a positive and he showed plenty of signs of being an Origin mainstay in the future. Finishing the series first in tackle-breaks, third in supports and third in kick-return metres, Mansour is typically full of energy in attack; should he continue to develop next year, he will have high hopes of holding on to his sky blue jumper.
Origins: 3 (2016)
2016 Matches: 3 (Games I, II and III)
Total Running Metres: 344 metres
Metres After Contact: 94 metres
Kick Return Metres: 85 metres