NSW star James Tamou believes coach Laurie Daley should be praised for making wholesale changes to the Blues side as he attempts to win back the State of Origin crown.
Daley’s team for the Origin opener in Sydney on Wednesday has been widely slammed since it was announced last week.
The choice of Manly star Dylan Walker on the interchange bench has been singled out for especially vociferous criticism.
But Tamou said Daley, who finally returned Origin glory to NSW in 2014, should be applauded for his courageous selections.
“I am impressed that there was such a change because there was a call to make the team similar and not too far away from what it was,” Tamou told AAP.
“But coming off last year’s series loss I am impressed with the way Laurie has handled things and gone about his selections. I think people should give him more credit for that.
“I don’t think too many people would have picked Matty Moylan, I would have because he is such a talent.
“Adam Reynolds has been the in-form halfback for the last few years so it is good to see him get the nod.”
Walker, Moylan and Reynolds will make their Origin debuts at ANZ Stadium for the Blues alongside Josh Mansour, after Daley dumped seven players – from the side that played in the 52-6 hammering in last year’s decider at Suncorp Stadium.
They were Will Hopoate, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, Michael Ennis, Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman and Trent Merrin.
Centre Josh Morris was originally dumped but he was recalled on Sunday for the injured Josh Dugan.
Tamou said NSW must heed the lessons of their heavy loss in game three last year.
“We need to look forward though we can learn from it, we have new additions to the team, but we can use it as motivation,” he said.
Tamou pointed to the return of Greg Bird, who missed all of the 2015 series due to suspension, as vital for NSW.
“Everyone is excited to watch Birdy play because he really does stand up and doesn’t take a backward step,” Tamou said.
“He gets a bit aggressive and he is one of those players you just love to watch.”
NSW trained for the last time at their Coffs Harbour base on Sunday morning before flying to Sydney in the afternoon and settling into their pre-match base close to ANZ Stadium.