State of Origin Game 2: Squad Announcement
What do these changes mean for New South Wales and Queensland heading to Perth?
State of Origin is an evolving beast – whether through injury, loss of form or plain desperation, changes are a given and game two will see both states field revamped squads.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Coach Brad Fittler has made huge selection calls, notably Latrell Mitchell’s culling. It’s a hell of a selection call to drop NRL’s best strike centre but clearly a disappointing game one and inconsistent club performances were enough for NSW to make the bombshell decision.
Compounding this selection stunner is the replacement – Jack Wighton, game one’s bench utility who has not started as a centre since 2014. Fittler has shown his hand in backing his gut feel and will need an immediate dividend from the biggest NSW selection call in recent time.
In other changes, five-eighth Cody Walker is cut for the veteran James Maloney. Walker’s cards were marked with a quiet game one display seeing him hooked midway through the second half. Mitchell Pearce was meant to be the man to get yet another shot at Origin redemption but a horror display against Melbourne coupled with injury sees Maloney tasked with rescuing the Blues’ attack.
His inclusion comes after a fine three-week run of club football and reunites him with teammate Nathan Cleary. Expect New South Wales’ attack to be far more structured and direct than game one.
Nick Cotric is out with an ankle injury, Blake Ferguson is a physical like-for-like replacement but has been painfully inconsistent for Parra – can the Origin spotlight be the spark needed to ignite his potential game-breaking ability?
There’s a seamless return to Origin for Manly superstar Tom Trbojevic who replaces an unlucky Josh Morris as Wighton’s centre partner. “Turbo Tom” is a huge inclusion for New South Wales and considering how important he was to the Blues’ 2018 series win, will pose Queensland plenty of questions in attack but will need to deliver in defence.
David Klemmer’s wrist injury means Newcastle teammate Daniel Saifiti gets an Origin debut and asked to take up the giant workload Klemmer’s absence creates. Bench middle Payne Haas is also unavailable with Tariq Sims making a return and Dale Finucane also making a deserved Origin debut. Wade Graham meanwhile returns after a nine-month knee injury to become the interchange leader Angus Crichton struggled to be.
These changes mean New South Wales bare little resemblance to their game one version – considering they were level with 12 minutes to go last start, has coach Fittler over-reacted or has he made the big calls needed to ensure a decider?
The joys of winning game one mean significant continuity for coach Kevin Walters. While his Blues counterpart radically reshapes his side, the only changes for Queensland are injury-enforced for their bench options. Middle forwards Jai Arrow and Joe Ofahengaue are cursing their luck with an ankle and leg cut respectively sidelining them.
Their spots are taken by two players with previous Origin experience – Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace. These changes – while unideal – are hardly setbacks though, as arguments could have been made for the new faces to have been included in the game one squad to begin with.
Coach Walters would be counting his blessings his key players have avoided injury – his side are full of self-belief in having won game one in the most Queensland of ways in coming back and grinding out a win in the game’s closing stages. With momentum and continuity on their side, the underdog Maroons are already great value to take out the series in Perth.