NRL.com's team of journalists and producers have selected their NSW Blues teams for State of Origin I at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, May 31. Find out who they've picked to take on the Maroons and why.
NRL.com's combined NSW Blues team: 1. James Tedesco, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Michael Jennings, 5. Jarryd Hayne, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Tyson Frizell. Interchange: 14. Jack Bird, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Wade Graham, 17. Andrew Fifita.
Dominic Brock, NRL.com Production Editor
1. James Tedesco, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Jack Bird, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. Brett Morris, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Jake Tbrojevic, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Wade Graham. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. David Klemmer, 16. Paul Vaughan, 17 Andrew Fifita.
With Josh Dugan battling injury I was tempted to include Dylan Walker in the centres but I've gone with the versatile Jack Bird instead, with the safety-first option of Brett Morris on the wing and old teammates Maloney and Pearce reuniting in the halves. Tyrone Peachey is my wildcard utility on the bench to add something different late in the contest against tired legs, and between him and Bird there's coverage for pretty much every position in the side if injury strikes. Paul Vaughan has earned an Origin call-up and deserves a spot in the side.
Adrian McMurray, NRL.com Presenter/Producer
1 James Tedesco, 2 Blake Ferguson, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Michael Jennings, 5 Jarryd Hayne, 6 James Maloney, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 Andrew Fifita, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 Aaron Woods, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Josh Jackson, 13 Tyson Frizell. Interchange: 14 Jack Bird, 15 Jake Trbojevic, 16 David Klemmer, 17 Wade Graham.
I've picked Mitchell Pearce to return and partner James Maloney, with Jarryd Hayne back in the side on the wing. Assuming he's fit Aaron Woods will start and after already representing Australia I've tipped Jake Trbojevic to make his Origin debut from the bench. I'm backing Boyd Cordner to be named captain following Paul Gallen's representative retirement.
Andy Bryan, NRL.com Deputy Editor
1. James Tedesco, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Jarryd Hayne, 5. Brett Morris, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Boyd Cordner, 13. Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: 14. Jack Bird/Tyrone Peachey, 15. Paul Vaughan, 16. Wade Graham, 17. David Klemmer.
Jarryd Hayne has won a World Cup playing in the centres and should have no problem making an impact, while Brett Morris has proven time and again he won't give up on a play. Mitchell Pearce is easily the best halfback in NSW and playing well, while Robbie Farah is still the best hooker option, despite strong showings from Nathan Peats. I've picked a hard-working and versatile backrow, but can't split the utility role between Jack Bird and Tyrone Peachey.
Martin Gabor, National Correspondent
1. James Tedesco, 2. Jarryd Hayne, 3. Jack Bird, 4. Josh Dugan, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Tyson Frizell, 13. Wade Graham. Interchange: 14. Tyrone Peachey, 15. Andrew Fifita, 16. Jake Trbojevic, 17. Paul Vaughan.
He's had his doubters, but Mitchell Pearce wholeheartedly deserves his No.7 jersey back. He's been the form halfback in 2017 – not just from NSW – but in the NRL and is ready to make this team his own. Cameron McInnes can count himself unlucky to miss out, but Robbie Farah's experience and left boot will be essential in the cauldron that is Suncorp Stadium. Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan have shown at national level how good their combination is, while Jack Bird is more than capable of playing on the left. The back row was always going to cause headaches, and in truth, whoever gets picked will do a great job. I tried to find a place for Josh Jackson on the bench but I just couldn't fit him in.
Alicia Newton, National Correspondent
1 James Tedesco, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Dugan, 4 Jarryd Hayne, 5 Blake Ferguson, 6 Matt Moylan, 7 James Maloney, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Robbie Farah, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Boyd Cordner, 13 Josh Jackson. Interchange: 14 Jack Bird, 15 Wade Graham, 16 Jake Trbojevic, 17 Andrew Fifita.
Injuries to Tom Trbojevic and Josh Mansour actually made some decisions easier. The backline is experienced, and heading into Game One I think that's important. Brett Morris missed last series and should slot into the No.2 jersey having never let anyone down in the State of Origin arena. Despite some patchy form, you have to play Jarryd Hayne somewhere and his move to left-centre at the Titans in recent weeks is no coincidence. Penrith duo Matt Moylan and James Tamou had solid games for City Origin, while teammate Trent Merrin has been down on form this season and out of favour with Laurie Daley after missing selection last season – despite playing for the Kangaroos.
Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent
1. James Tedesco, 2. Jarryd Hayne, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Jack Bird, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. James Maloney, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Peter Wallace, 10. Andrew Fifita, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Wade Graham, 13. Jake Trbojevic. 14. Matt Moylan, 15. David Klemmer, 16. Tyson Frizell, 17. Trent Merrin.
I've championed Josh Jackson for a number of years so it causes me great angst that he has to be left out of a Blues forward pack that would also be well served if Dragons pair Paul Vaughan and Jack de Belin were in the squad. Given he hasn't been named for St George Illawarra this week I'm going to give Josh Dugan longer to recover and ensure an as smooth as possible first camp with Jennings and Bird as my centre options with Hayne and Ferguson on the wings. I thought Peter Wallace could have gone on the Four Nations tour last year as Cameron Smith's deputy so he's my first-choice No.9 while Moylan's best work for the Panthers this year has come in the last quarter of games, making him an ideal utility off the interchange bench.
Eden Richards, Queensland Correspondent
1. James Tedesco, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. James Roberts, 5. Jarryd Hayne, 6. James Maloney, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Tyson Frizell. Interchange: 14. Jack Bird, 15. Jake Trbojevic, 16. Aaron Woods, 17. Wade Graham.
It sounds simple but NSW need to score points to beat Queensland and that is why James Roberts is in my team. He is arguably the most damaging centre in the game at the moment and can turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye. Jarryd Hayne gets a start on the wing and should relish the free space at the back. I've picked Adam Reynolds over Mitchell Pearce simply because I think Pearce has had enough chances. Nathan Peats is my pick as hooker. I wasn't sure whom I fancied as the No.9 until I watched Peats outperform Queensland hooker Cameron Smith in the Gold Coast Titans' win over the Melbourne Storm in Round 10. He looks ready for Origin football. There were a plethora of forwards to choose from and Jack De Belin is unlucky to miss out. Paul Vaughan has been outstanding in 2017 and deserves a start, while Aaron Woods should come off the bench coming back from a hamstring injury.
Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent
1. James Tedesco, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Jarryd Hayne, 4. Josh Dugan, 5. Blake Ferguson, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. James Maloney, 8. James Tamou, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Paul Vaughan, 11. Boyd Cordner (c), 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Tyson Frizell. Interchange: 14. Jack Bird, 15. Wade Graham, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Jake Trbojevic.
Backs: Tedesco has been threatening in a struggling team this year and showed he was the Blues' fullback of the future last year. The three-quarter line was tricky but once Tom Trbojevic was injured the only solution was a recall for in-form Dogs flyer and Origin veteran Brett Morris on the left wing. His form has not only been good but he's produced countless "Origin-style" effort plays for the Dogs this year. Class is permanent, as they say. Game breaker and 2014 player of the series Jarryd Hayne simply has to be in the 17 – his pedigree at this level is quite simply unrivalled by any other player available to Daley and he has shown enough in recent weeks at centre to earn a start there, where he dominated the 2013 World Cup. If Dugan is not fit, in-form Eels speedster Michael Jennings slots in on the left with Hayne to play right centre.
Playmakers (6-7-9-14): Maloney in the halves is one of a tiny number of sure things in this 17; after much consideration I've opted to keep his winning Game III combination with Matt Moylan alive. Moylan has shown flickers of his best lately and showed last year (both for the Blues and Roos) he has what it takes to lift at the highest level while also slipping comfortably into the five-eighth role. Peats was a line-ball call but he looks an Origin-type player and has been in great form since coming back from injury. His time has come. Jack Bird is the bench utility; he came mighty close to starting in the centres but he's simply the best No.14 available as he covers every spot from 1-7 and can play edge back row if needed
Forwards: Cordner as left-edge back row and captain is another rare auto-pick. The underrated Josh Jackson is a right-edge specialist and reigning Brad Fittler medallist – he has to play. Their presence consigns Wade Graham to a bench spot but the Sharks skipper-in-waiting had to be in the 17. Frizell was always going to make the 17; as someone equally at home in the middle as on an edge, he starts at 13 (which is a spot where Jackson is completely wasted given his ball-playing value on an edge).
Up front and with Gallen retired, an experienced prop is vital; Tamou gets the nod after his City-Country blinder but depending how Woods goes this weekend he could re-emerge to claim that spot. I can only fit one in the team though.
Paul Vaughan is in irresistible touch right now – his mix of power, speed, footwork and offloading has caused opposition defences nightmare since Round 1 and his stints bookending Dragons games makes him the perfect option to start then close out the game. Andrew Fifita's offloading and tackle-busting gets him a bench spot ahead of David Klemmer while impressive Manly youngster Jake Trbojevic has rep footy stamped all over him and could be a 10-year Blues stalwart.
This article first appeared on NRL.com