New South Wales State Of Origin Squad – Game 2

June 7th, 2011

There’s always plenty of controversy around whenever a New South Wales team is picked and game two of the 2011 State of Origin series is no exception, in fact, it’s probably twice as controversial as in game one.

All up Ricky Stuart and the selectors have made six changes to the team that narrowly went down to Queensland at Suncorp Stadium, some of them forced and some of them not.

The controversy derives from a few statements Stuart made before game one and the fact that he seems to have gone right against them in game two.

Lets break down the changes and try and see what Stuart is thinking as he tries to avoid a sixth straight series defeat for NSW.

Starting off are the players which played game one which will not be playing in game two, these are:

Josh Dugan*

Michael Jennings

Brett Morris

Jason King

Kade Snowden

Dean Young

(*unofficial)

Of these six the first three are injured and as a result these changes were forced on Stuart

The argument from many is that Stuart claimed he’d stick with a team to build an origin culture and stick with his players.

Given how close they came many are arguing there’s no reason to make changes other than those which are forced.

In reality though when you look at the numbers you could say the changes up front were forced.

Jason King barely had his name called in the opener and he was outplayed, outclassed and out enthused by his Queensland counterparts.

Kade Snowden tried harder but like his team mate Civoniceva and Scott ran riot all over him in game one.

Dean Young was more outplayed by his team mate Michael Ennis than Queensland and given Ennis is an 80 minute player the though process there is that if they can fit another specialist back rower then why not?

The reality is that although NSW came so close in game one, they didn’t deserve to and it very easily could have been a big scoreline against them.

Their defence served them well in crucial periods but to go into a game relying on that is suicide.

If they’re going to win the game they need to not only stop Queensland’s go forward but create some go forward themselves, Stuart has decided if we can’t go over them , we’ll go through them.

That brings us to look at the inclusions.

Anthony Minichello*

Jarryd Hayne

William Hopoate

Kurt Gidley

Anthony Watmough

Luke Lewis

(* unofficial)

The majority of these blokes have been there before and there’s no denying they give the side a heap of extra foot speed.

Every one of them is an 80 minute player and their mobility is designed to create holes in around the big Queensland forwards with a game plan that will try and isolate them one on one.

In terms of the forwards which have been included Luke Lewis has been dominate in his last few games with Penrith and against Brisbane he tore them apart almost single handily.

Anthony Watmough hasn’t been in his best form in 2011 but he’ll lift for origin and there’s not a lot of risk about him stepping up to the grade.

Kurt Gidley is a bit of a question mark, he’s barely played this season and is impact off the bench is vital for the NSW side.

A lot rests on the former captain’s shoulders, especially late in the contest.

Moving onto the backs though and this is where things start to get interesting.

Ricky’s decisions up front are understandable and credible, but this is where his logic is hard to follow.

He claimed before game one that he wouldn’t be picking players out of position, that explained the absence of Jarryd Hayne and to a degree Jamal Idris as well (18th man).

Injuries forced out winger Brett Morris and Hayne will cover that spot, out of position, on the wing.

It gets even more confusing here with Jennings injury being filled with rookie William Hopoate.

Hopoate has played just 14 NRL games and the vast majority have been on the wing.

It’s another player out of position after Stuart made a point of saying he wouldn’t do it for game one.

The other strange one is Anthony Minichello.

Josh Dugan was named in the official squad but we can reveal that his scans will almost certainly mean he won’t play.

Mini is the man touted as replacing him, even though they have a game breaking fullback in Hayne already in the squad.

The obvious decision and one that plenty of NSW fans have been calling for is as follows.

Hayne to fullback (natural position), Hopoate to wing (natural position) and Australian representative player Jamal Idris to centre (natural position).

Not only is that a far more imposing lineup for the Queenslanders to handle it also fits in with Stuarts original plan of not changing around positions.

While it seems the logical option for many, unless Stuart has something tricky up his sleeve it seems that’s the way they’ll be taking the field on Wednesday.

It’s worth noting too that Gallen moves to an unnatural number in the front row, however his style of play easily accounts for that kind of work week to week anyway.

In fact he was more of a front rower than either King or Snowden in game on.

Whatever happens it’s going to be an enthralling contest in Sydney next week and Stuart desperately needs a win or you can guarantee people will be calling for his head instantly.

On the other side if he can score a win it sets up game three in Brisbane as one of the greatest clashes in the history of origin football.

NSW State Of Origin Squad – Game Two

1. Josh Dugan (Canberra) / Anthony Minichello (Roosters)

2. Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta)

3. William Hopoate (Manly)

4. Mark Gasnier (St George Illawarra)

5. Akuila Uate (Newcastle Knights)

6. Jamie Soward (St George Illawarra)

7. Mitchell Pearce (Sydney Roosters)

8. Paul Gallen (c) (Cronulla)

9. Michael Ennis (Canterbury-Bankstown)

10. Tim Mannah (Parramatta)

11. Beau Scott (St George Illawarra)

12. Ben Creagh (St George Illawarra)

13. Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans)

Bench: Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra), Kurt Gidley (Newcastle Knights), Anthony Watmough (Manly), Luke Lewis (Penrith).