Inside Word: Maroons to dominate Test squad

With one round left before our Test and City/Country teams are picked, this week's games are very important to the players in contention, with teams to be announced on Sunday night.

I expect the Australian team will again be dominated by Queensland, with Maroons making up a possible 13 of the 17 players picked ... a just reward for their huge success in State of Origin over the past five years. With a little luck and a result for NSW this series, the Blues can force some changes next year!

To be picked to play for your country is the absolute pinnacle for any individual in their chosen sport. It is a reward for a lifelong dedication and sacrifice to get to the top. No matter if it's your first Test or, in Darren Lockyer's case, your 51st, they are all very special.

The centre positons in our Test team could go either way. Greg Inglis must be there, but his partner could go down to the wire. Mark Gasnier is playing very well; so is Justin Hodges after a long spell on the sidelines with an achilles injury; and Willie Tonga is also in the frame. A big game from any of them this weekend could cement their place.

The success of Queensland in the past, and the mainstays of our Test team, are also in the most important positions. The 7, 6, 1 and 9 are the core of your side where games hinge on the dominance and brilliance of these four. Johnathan Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith have played a lot of footy together for over five years now. Queensland and Australia are very lucky to have them. Four of the best players in this era and all Queenslanders ... I can only shake my head!

After losing the Test series last year to the Kiwis I am sure Tim Sheens is hell-bent on winning this game. The Kiwis have become a dominant force in our game; the amount of talent coming out of New Zealand is astounding. The sheer size, strength and natural skill of the polynesian kids coming through will ensure this nation is a powerhouse in the future.

The City/Country clash on Friday week will be hugely important for a number of players trying to force their way into the Blues team. The halves positions are still not cut and dried and this game could determine who wears the sky blue. Mitchell Pearce, Jamie Soward and Jarrod Mullen are all on show. 

Pearce is an Origin player and has a few games under his belt. He is tough, a great runner of the ball, has a great kicking game and, importantly in this position, he is highly respected by his teammates and opposition.

Mullen and Soward both have support from different people, and whoever NSW go with at five-eighth it is a great opportunity to cement a long-term position in the team. Soward's strength is his kicking game and this would be invaluable to NSW if we are on the front foot and dominating field position as the Dragons do for Soward at club level.

Meanwhile Kurt Gidley is the ultimate competitor and you could play him anywhere and he would still be among the best NSW players on the night.

Whoever is picked will have deserved their chance and then it's up to them to perform. Good luck to all the boys and go Country and Australia!

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