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Mini backs Latrell to join Blues royalty with Wally Lewis Medal win

Craig Fitzgibbon, Anthony Minichiello, Paul Gallen and James Tedesco.

Since it was first awarded in 2004, they are the only NSW players to have received the Wally Lewis Medal after being judged the player of a State of Origin series.

On Wednesday night, regardless of the result, that number is expected to rise to five. 

NSW's dominance in wrapping up the 2021 series 2-0 with a game to play on Wednesday night leaves at least half a dozen Blues contenders in the frame for the medal. 

Blues centre Tom Trbojevic was enormous in the series opener in Townsville with a man-of-the-match effort against the Maroons.

Blues skipper Tedesco was named best on field in game two, while the likes of Brian To'o, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary and Tariq Sims have also put their hands up. 

However, former NSW Origin legend Minichiello, who claimed the medal in 2005, believes it's down to three with Latrell Mitchell holding an edge over Trbojevic and Tedesco. 

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"A lot of players have put their hands up this year for the Blues but I think it's out of those three," Minichiello told 

"I think at the moment Latrell has his nose in front but it will come down to Wednesday night.

"Latrell has come up with some massive plays in big moments in both games, the one-on-one strip, the intercept, the defensive reads and line breaks. 

"He's been enormous, has come back into the Origin side this year and his game has gone to another level.

"He's been able to transition back to the centres quite comfortably and another big game would make it hard to ignore.

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"Turbo was dominant in game one and backed it up at Suncorp. Teddy just keeps evolving and improving, that's what the great players do.

"He's done everything in the game but is always looking to better it. He organises defensive lines better than any player in the game and takes control of some of the side's structures."

Minichiello's individual triumph in 2005 came when Queensland snatched the opening game of the series before Andrew Johns' famous return in game two led to the Blues winning the series 2-1.

The retired Rooster was the second NSW player to win the award behind Fitzgibbon and since 2004 only a further two Blues representatives have claimed the medal – Paul Gallen (2014) and Tedesco in 2019.

"Queensland has obviously had a lot of success in-between a few Blues guys winning the medal," Minichiello said.

"It's such a prestigious award regardless of the fact Wally is a Queenslander. He is a great of Origin and to be player of a series is a rare feat.

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"Looking back for me it's a wonderful achievement. It was a huge series in 2005.

"From losing the first game in extra time we were under the pump and then Joey came back and we take out the final two."

NSW hasn't won an Origin series whitewash since 2000 but Minichiello believes they'll break the 20-year drought on Wednesday night on the Gold Coast.

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Minichiello had a chance to do so in 2003 when the Blues went into Origin III at Suncorp Stadium up 2-0 in the series.

They were pummelled 36-6 to a fired-up Maroons outfit.

"They're tough to achieve, there's no doubt about it," Minichiello said.

"But I think this NSW team can do it and if they stick together and stay injury-free for long enough they can create their own dynasty too."

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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