NSW rugby league fans can judge for themselves who the state’s best fullback is when Matt Moylan faces off against James Tedesco for the first time.
Three days before NSW coach Laurie Daley names his State of Origin team for game three, Blues fullback incumbent Moylan’s Penrith host Tedesco’s Wests Tigers in an old-fashioned representative shootout on Saturday.
The duo have never played against each other previously despite having a combined 124 NRL games, with Tedesco injured for most of the 2014 season and Moylan sidelined for half of 2015.
It’s set the scene for a mouth-watering NRL clash at ANZ Stadium.
“It’s a fair battle for the fans, isn’t it. I think they’re all looking forward to it – I know we are,” said Penrith second-rower Isaah Yeo on Tuesday.
Tedesco, 23, appeared to have the Blues No.1 jumper sewn up for game one following some sizzling early season NRL form only for a shoulder injury to cruel his chances of an Origin debut.
Daley instead ushered in 25-year-old Panthers skipper Moylan, who has been solid without being spectacular in the back-to-back losses that handed Queensland their 10th series win in 11 years.
Stats in the NRL this season appear to favour the in-form Tedesco, who has 11 tries to Moylan’s one, 58 tackle breaks to Moylan’s 12 and has run for an average 131 metres a game to his rival’s 92, although Moylan has more try assists (11 to 8) despite playing two fewer games.
Yeo expects his captain to prove his worth against the Tigers.
“I thought Moylan’s done a good job and he shows week in, week out for Penrith that he’s the NSW fullback,” he said.
“I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to going out and showing why he’s the NSW fullback. I can’t wait.”
The pair have been in the frame for several years.
Tedesco was the NSW City Origin fullback in 2013, before Moylan got a shot in 2014.
Moylan had a second crack in that annual Origin trial in 2015, with Tedesco on the wing, before both weren’t considered this year due to injury.
Panthers star and NSW team contender Bryce Cartwright described the match-up as one of the most anticipated battles of the weekend.
“Everyone wants to see that, two of the great fullbacks going at it,” Cartwright said.
“I think both our teams are similar in the way we have a lot of young people and a lot of skill so it’s going to be a really good game.”
MOYLAN v TEDESCO IN 2016
MOYLAN (10 games)
11 try assists
14 line break assists
1 line break
12 tackle breaks
92 metres per game
1.8 missed tackles per game
TEDESCO (12 games)
8 try assists
10 line break assists
10 line breaks
58 tackle breaks
131 metres per game
0.9 missed tackles per game