HOW THE BLUES STACK UP FOR STATE OF ORIGIN II AT THE MCG
Fullback – Josh Dugan
Age: 27 Origins: 6
Dugan was the Blues’ best in Game I after being handed the unenviable task of filling Jarryd Hayne’s massive shoes. A key attacking weapon for NSW, the Dragons star will enter the MCG clash full of confidence.
Wing – Brett Morris
Age: 28 Origins: 10
A vital inclusion for NSW, after missing Game I. Morris has added another element to his game as Canterbury fullback this season, and that, along with his defence, could prove crucial to any NSW success.
Centre – Josh Morris
Age: 28 Origins: 11
Again held Greg Inglis at bay in Origin I, but the Maroons’ superstar was affected by illness in the lead-up. Only managed six runs for 53m in NSW’s Game I loss and needs to do more in attack this time.
Centre – Michael Jennings
Age: 27 Origins: 13
Jennings’ involvement in Game I was limited and his defence wasn’t at his best. He will have a new winger for Origin II and they are sure to come under pressure from the Maroons. Needs more early ball and to get into dummy half and help his forwards with yardage.
Wing – Will Hopoate
Age: 23 Origins: 3
Fortunate to hold his wing spot after an underwhelming effort in Game I. Is likely to return to his favoured left wing for Game II, and if so there will be no more excuses because Hopoate has shown he can cut it at Origin level.
Five-eighth – Mitchell Pearce
Age: 26 Origins 13
The fact that Pearce wasn’t showered with criticism after Game I, illustrates that he was one of NSW’s best performers. Put on a great pass for NSW’s first try in the series opener, proof he and Hodkinson can pry apart the Maroons defence if given field position.
Halfback – Trent Hodkinson
Age: 26 Origins 4
Probably the most under-pressure player in either side after he was hooker by Bulldogs coach Des Hasler in his last NRL game. People quickly forget Hodkinson scored the series’ winning try last year, but his form does need to improve in Melbourne including his and Pearce’s kicking games.
Prop – Aaron Woods
Age: 24 Origins: 6
Was huge early-on in Game I, in his combination with James Tamou and the duo were key planks in NSW’s first-half dominance. But that dominance waned badly in the second stanza, and the Test prop needs to ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Hooker – Robbie Farah
Age: 31 Origins: 12
An incredible effort to be fit for Game II after suffering a shoulder injury in Game I. Is key to NSW defence up the middle, he made a game-high 51 tackles in Origin I and is sure to be targeted in Melbourne by Queensland. But the Blues are confident ‘Faz’ will be up to the challenge.
Prop – James Tamou
Age: 26 Origins: 9
Was massive for the Blues early-on in Sydney last month and is at the peak of his powers after overcoming a worrying neck injury. Queensland will be keen to control his ability to offload.
Second row – Beau Scott
Age: 31 Origins: 9
Johnathan Thurston becomes even more crucial to Queensland’s hopes in the absence of Cooper Cronk. That will make hardman Scott even more determined to get at him.
Second row – Ryan Hoffman
Age: 31 Origins: 12
Finally gets to play an Origin match at the MCG after 11 years with the Melbourne Storm. Hoffman keeps getting the job done in defence and attack for the Blues, that’s why he is such a vital part of the team.
Lock – Paul Gallen (capt)
Age: 33 Origins: 20
NSW’s greatest-ever coach Phil Gould reckons Gallen is past it, giving the inspirational skipper even more ammunition ahead of Game II after missing Game I with injury. That spells bad news for Queensland.
Age: 25 Origins: 11
Was strangely brought on with only 19 minutes left in Origin I by coach Laurie Daley. With Andrew Fifita dumped, Merrin is sure to get plenty more game time as NSW’s most dynamic bench forward. His footwork at the line and offloads could produce a Blues try or two.
Age: 22 Origins 3
Has been criticised for his Game I effort, but was a key part of the Blues defence which repelled wave after wave of Queensland attack in the second half, making 33 tackles in 40 minutes. His running with the ball remains strong, but his linebreaking ability has waned this season.
Age: Origins: 1
With Gallen likely to be used as a third prop, Klemmer should be able to take advantage of a tiring Maroons pack when he comes on.
Age: 24 Origins: 1
Was pushed to the bench upon Gallen’s return. A great defender on the edge, Jackson needs to be more assertive when NSW have the ball.