Five Blues Queensland Fear Most: Hodges
It's often said in footy that you do what the opposition least wants you to do. So with less than a week until the Origin teams are named for Game One here are the five New South Wales players the Queensland boys would be happy not to be selected.
1. Jarryd Hayne
'Haynesy' is the obvious one. It's proven over the years that when he's played for New South Wales they've been a far more dangerous side and he was in the team when they last won a series in 2014. I don't think he's been setting the world on fire for the Titans of late but given the opportunity to play State of Origin football I think we'd see him get back to his best. He loves the big stage, he loves the atmosphere of Origin so he's still the man to watch. Because he's so unpredictable you never know what you're going to get. When he's at his brilliant best he's very hard to contain and when players like him get in some hot form no matter what they do everything comes off for them. He's a big man, he's very fast and he's good on his feet so he's got the ability to beat tackles. When he's in front of you you get a bit nervous. No matter how they're going at club level those great players have always got those games in them that can make the difference at that level.
2. James Tedesco
He came in to make his Origin debut in Game Three last year and he was brilliant. He looks a bit small and you perhaps don't think he's as strong as he is but he's a very strong player and along with Darius Boyd he's been the best fullback in the game the past couple of years. He probably hasn't been at his best of late but the combination he could strike up with 'Haynesy' could be pretty lethal. Guys like 'Teddy' and Billy Slater for Queensland have the ability to get you points in Origin that you perhaps weren't expecting. Points in Origin don't tend to come from big set plays, they come with energy and blokes pushing up with someone on a half chance or a good kick-chase where the bounce of the ball goes your way. There are a lot of those sorts of efforts in Origin that don't result in points but when they do it can absolutely be the difference between winning and losing.
3. Mitchell Pearce
He's copped a lot of criticism over the years for NSW not having more success but he looks in a really good place right now. Whenever he's played Origin he's had to go up against Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk and he's had his dramas on and off the field but watching him play at the moment for the Roosters he looks relaxed and he looks happy. People will bring up his previous experience in Origin but I think that could really spur him on to have his best Origin series yet.
4. Tyson Frizell
We all saw what he did last year when he came into the team for Game Two and I just think he's perfectly suited for Origin football. He's big, he's strong, he's got those courageous lines that he runs and he puts a lot of fear in blokes too because he's a very powerful unit. He reminds me of Jason Taumalolo with the way that he runs. He's fast, he's got good footwork for a big man and he's made for Origin. Coming into his second year in that arena he's going to be even better. He attracts a lot of defenders because when you see him running that hard lead line most halves that he's targeting really struggle against him and bite in which leaves a Hayne or Tedesco with room to play out the back. He's a guy that doesn't really speak much, he's pretty quiet and just goes about his football and they're the ones you've normally got to worry about.
5. Peter Wallace
I'm not sure if Laurie Daley will go this way but I believe the Queensland team would be very happy if they didn't select Peter Wallace at hooker. Robbie Farah has had 10 years in the Origin arena to prove himself and they haven't got the results they might have wanted and since 'Wal' has moved to nine at the Panthers he's blossomed. He's found his calling card as a hooker and in my eyes he's been one of the stand-out hookers all season. Having played with 'Wal' at the Broncos I know how courageous he is. He puts his body on the line and even when he's got blood all over his face he keeps turning up and trying to inspire his team-mates. He was the type of player I loved to play with and that's the type of player NSW need in that hooker role.
To say conceding 38 points last week against the Titans was un-Melbourne-like is probably the understatement of the season and giving up a handy lead late in the game was just as big a surprise. Their defence has always been something that the Storm have prided themselves on and while they're scoring plenty of points themselves I know Craig Bellamy and Cam Smith won't be happy with how many points they are leaking right now. They've got some young players who seem to be getting fatigued late in games and without Jesse Bromwich there in the middle for a couple of weeks you can see why they might be getting a bit loose. The Origin period will be tough for them but I've got no doubt they'll be back to the Melbourne that we know come the back-end of the season.
This article first appeared on NRL.com