Can you smell it? Origin fever is in the air. After six straight series wins there isn’t much talk surrounding the rock-solid Queensland side. We basically know who will be playing in maroon, barring a few injuries, as selectors stick solid with the boys who have got the job done.
Sure, they won’t have Darren Lockyer this year – but they get the Cooper Cronk-Johnathan Thurston combo to fall back on, so it’s not like they’re struggling. They also have Daly Cherry-Evans waiting in the wings!
As usual though there is plenty of speculation on who will suit up for the Blues. The annual City v Country ‘selection trial’ has come and gone, with players including Tariq Sims and Todd Carney getting in the frame. There are ‘feuds’ playing out in the New South Wales media over subjects like whether Robbie Farah is an Origin-suitable player. (With some injuries amongst the contenders he might need to be!) And just where does Jarryd Hayne fit into the Blues’ plans?
Seemingly everyone has an opinion – but what do the numbers say? What does the form in 2012 reveal? And what do the stats over the past six losing years of Origin matches shout? Do they give us evidence to support who is, or isn’t, an ‘Origin’ player?
In an effort to be as in-depth as possible we will split this NSW analysis over two weeks. This week we’ll focus on the backs, before moving to the pack next week. (And Queensland readers: feel free to add your 20c worth on twitter…)
Contenders: Josh Dugan, Anthony Minichiello (incumbent), Brett Stewart, Brett Morris, Jarryd Hayne
Josh Dugan played in the opening match last season, his only Origin match thus far… and he played pretty well. After recently making a comeback from injury he is back in the mix. In his lone Origin match he made 123 metres, a line-break and offered a try assist and six tackle-breaks. He committed two errors and missed just one tackle.
In 2012 Dugan has averaged 154 metres but has just one line-break and two tries from his four games. Also he has 26 tackle-breaks and 12 supports.
Anthony Minichiello came in for Dugan in the last two games last year and performed admirably. If he produces form like he exhibited on ANZAC Day fans would feel comfortable having him back in the sky blue. He has played 11 times for the Blues – but just three times during the Queensland dominance. In these three games he has averaged 129 metres, tallied two line-breaks, a line-break assist, two tries, 17 tackle-breaks and four errors, along with 23 supports.
In 2012 Minichiello averages 160 metres in his eight matches. He has two line-breaks, three line-break assists, four tries, a try assist, 28 tackle-breaks, just five errors and an extremely high 53 supports.
Brett Stewart is another just back from injury. Stewart has played five Origin games in the past for an average 117 metres. He has two line-breaks, two line-break assists, two tries and a try assist. Stewart had 13 tackle-breaks, two errors but just one support.
In 2012 the Manly custodian averages 103 metres from six games, has three line-breaks, three line-break assists, three tries and two try assists. He has added 16 tackle-breaks and nine supports but has made nine errors.
Brett Morris is a late contender after switching to fullback for the Dragons a little over a month ago. Morris is still largely untested in the position but could be a surprise inclusion, especially if injuries strike. As a winger Morris has played five matches for NSW averaging 69 metres with just one line-break. He has eight tackle-breaks, five errors and eight supports.
In 2012 his numbers are much more exciting. He averages 168 metres in eight games, has five line-breaks, a line-break assist, two tries, four try assists, 35 tackle-breaks, just five errors and a high 36 supports.
Jarryd Hayne: The enigma… the riddle. Just where do NSW play him? The five-eighth experiment in the City side didn’t work. He played centre in the Game Three last year… has won games for the Blues from the wing before… and now plays mostly fullback. In 13 Origin matches during Queensland’s dominant period Hayne averages 142 metres, has 11 line-breaks (four from kick returns), one line-break assist, seven tries and a try assist. He has 94 tackle-breaks, 11 errors and 26 supports.
This season as Parramatta splutter Hayne still has good numbers. He averages 161 metres in five games, has seven line-breaks, three line-break assists, five tries, three try assists, 28 tackle-breaks, four errors and 30 supports.
Stats Insider says: Josh Dugan’s the man.
Contenders: Akuila Uate (incumbent), Brett Morris (incumbent), Jarryd Hayne, James McManus, David Williams, Blake Ferguson
Akuila Uate is a certainty for one wing. In his three Origin matches Uate averages 131 metres, has two line-breaks, a line-break assist, a try and a try assist. He has 16 tackle-breaks, just one error and three supports.
This season the Fijian native averages 138 metres in seven games, has six line-breaks, five tries and 30 tackle-breaks. He has seven errors and eight supports.
Brett Morris – (see fullback, above)
Jarryd Hayne – (see fullback, above)
James McManus, Newcastle’s other winger, has played one Origin when he made 95 metres, four tackle-breaks and just one error.
In reality the above three are clear favourites but should the Blues need someone he wouldn’t let anyone down.
In 2012 for the Knights he has played eight games and averaged 135 metres, has six line-breaks, five tries, a try assist, 19 tackle-breaks, eight errors and 15 supports.
David Williams is another who has experienced time in the Blues jersey before. In his two matches for NSW Williams averaged 93 metres, added three line-breaks, two tries, 14 tackle-breaks and made four errors.
His 2012 form has him at 90 metres in each of eight matches, four line-breaks, four tries, one try assist, 12 tackle-breaks, nine errors and six supports.
Blake Ferguson is a classic rocks-or-diamonds player. He can produce sensational efforts from near-impossible positions and then can have a brain snap and produce an error his side can well do without. He is yet to play Origin but his 2012 form at Canberra has produced an average 137 metres from eight games, four line-breaks, a try, a try assist, 39 tackle busts, 10 errors and five supports.
Stats Insider says: Akuila Uate for sure – and Jarryd Hayne nudges out Brett Morris for the other flanker role solely due to his unpredictable star power.
Contenders: Michael Jennings, Jarryd Hayne (incumbent), Josh Morris, Chris Lawrence
Mark Gasnier played all three games last year but has since retired, leaving the centre positions open. Defending the Queensland duo of Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges will be a monumental task but the successful candidates must also possess enough skill to create points. With Matt Cooper and Jamie Lyon not even on the contenders list thanks to their reluctance to be available, it’s time for others to stand tall.
Michael Jennings put a scare into the NSW camp when he exited the field early last Monday night, as he is considered the favourite for the left centre position. In four matches for the Blues Jennings averages 97 metres, has three line-breaks, one try and 23 tackle-breaks. He has just two offloads and has been effective in defence 78.7 per cent of the time.
In 2012 Jennings has suited up seven times; he averages 132 metres, has six line-breaks, three line-break assists, six tries and two try assists. He also has 39 tackle-breaks and six offloads with 10 errors. He is defending at an 84.3 per cent effective rate.
Jarryd Hayne – (see fullback) * His defence is 66.7 per cent effective, but this isn’t a fair comparison given he is playing in the last line at fullback.
Josh Morris could return to the NSW side as his twin brother Brett exits. In his two previous Origins, Morris averaged just 49 metres. He’s made one line-break, scored one try and made six tackle-breaks. His effective tackle percentage was 75 per cent in those two matches.
In 2012 his defence is 77.7 per cent effective from eight games and he is averaging 129 metres gained. The Bulldog has seven line-breaks, one line-break assist, five tries and one try assist. Morris has made 44 tackle-breaks, eight offloads and 10 errors. The question may be whether Morris can move to the right side of the field…
Chris Lawrence has played Test football but not yet represented New South Wales. Could he be the new fit the team needs? So far this season Lawrence averages 82 metres from his eight games. He has just one line-break, four line-break assists, one try and three try assists. With just nine tackle-breaks and two offloads plus 13 errors his numbers aren’t flash. But his defence is strong (84.2 per cent effective).
Stats Insider says: Michael Jennings on the left and Josh Morris on the right are the best bets.
Contenders: Todd Carney, Jarryd Hayne, Jamie Soward (incumbent), Jarrod Mullen
Todd Carney’s return to the NRL and good form for the Sharks has seemingly stamped his papers for a State of Origin debut. After a slow start he also played well for Country recently; as Hayne stumbled in the same match and with Soward down on last year’s form, it’s his to lose.
In his Sharks career Carney is 83.1 per cent effective in defence. He averages 61 metres a match taking the ball to the line and 340 metres kicking. He has one 40/20 and he finds space with his kicks 57.8 per cent of the time. Carney has one line-break, five line-break assists, one try and six try assists. He has committed eight errors.
Jarryd Hayne – (see fullback)
Jamie Soward played all three games in last year’s series. He averaged 26 metres running, 396 metres kicking, added one line-break assist, one try assist and made just one error. He was just 65.7 per cent effective in defence. The Dragons pivot was solid but not spectacular, leaving his position open for the taking.
In 2012 Soward has averaged 40 metres running and 430 metres kicking. He finds open space 58.3 per cent of the time. He has yet to break the line but has five line-break assists and four try assists. He has made seven errors from his eight games.
Jarrod Mullen is seemingly in limbo. He plays five-eighth for the Knights, wants to be known as a five-eighth, but was picked as halfback for Country. He played one lone Origin in the past, running 37 metres and kicking for 500 but failed to make a dent offensively. He was 84.2 per cent effective in defence.
In 2012 Mullen averages 45 metres running and 458 metres kicking. He has two 40/20s and finds space 54 per cent of the time.
Defensively he is 81.8 per cent effective. He has four line-breaks in eight games, one line-break assist, four tries and two try assists, plus 17 tackle-breaks and six errors.
Stats Insider says: A no-brainer – Todd Carney.
Contenders: Mitchell Pearce (incumbent), Peter Wallace, Jarrod Mullen
Mitchell Pearce, the incumbent Blues No. 7, had a slow start to the year but appears to have found his groove. He was ultra-impressive for City Origin and backed it up with a great game on ANZAC Day. Pearce has six Origins under his belt, including all three games last year, averaging 28 metres running and 229 metres kicking. He notched four line-break assists, one try and three try assists to offset 11 errors. His defence was 78.7 per cent effective.
In 2012 the Roosters halfback is averaging 55 metres running and 290 metres kicking, finding space 66.7 per cent of the time. He has made two line-breaks, offered five line-break assists, scored one try and added six try assists. He has tallied 13 offloads and 11 errors plus 27 supports. His defence is solid – 81.9 per cent effective. He has also played with Todd Carney before, combining to run to the 2010 grand final.
Peter Wallace has also had a few cracks at Origin during the Maroons’ domination. He played four matches averaging 17 metres running and 371 metres kicking. He provided just the one line-break and try assist, with four offloads and five errors, but he was defensively strong at 88.2 per cent effective.
But for the Broncos in 2012 Wallace is at 84.9 per cent effective in defence and is averaging 49 metres running and 329 metres kicking from seven games, hitting open space 57.1 per cent of the time. He has one line-break, three line-break assists, two tries and three try assists to his name, along with 11 errors and 41 supports.
Jarrod Mullen – (see five-eighth)
Stats Insider says: Mitchell Pearce to reunite with Carney.
So there you have it. Do you agree? Who would you pick, and why? Don’t be afraid to tell me why I’m right, or wrong, on twitter. You can find me @NRLStatsInsider.
Next week: the Blues’ forward candidates. With all the debate about hooker, you’ll want to hear what I’ve got to say…