Sterling Gold: Three changes the Blues must make
It was easy to understand the frustration expressed by Blues coach Ricky Stuart over the weekend when interviewed about Origin selection for Game II.
He was bewildered that there could be such a strong call for stability before the series opener, yet after going so close to achieving a win there has been so much talk about a number of heads that could roll.
One thing he has continually stated since taking over the full-time job was that NSW has suffered for too long on the back of constant personnel changes, not only year-to-year but game-to-game.
Last year the Blues used 30 players in their campaign; Queensland used 19.
Ricky did point out however that he couldn't be "blindly loyal", suggesting that after a stringent review of the opening encounter he was open to some change.
Like everyone, I have an opinion of what is needed and for what it is worth this is the way I would go if I was sole selector.
Firstly if the hamstring strain sustained by Brett Morris was to rule him out, the obvious replacement on the wing would be Jarryd Hayne.
Ricky's policy is to pick position specialists, but Jarryd has already shown that he not only handles being on the flank at this elite level – he excels. In 2009 he took out the Brad Fittler medal as NSW's best after playing all three games on the wing.
Outside of injuries there would be two changes that I would make.
I believe Kurt Gidley has to be in the 17 and would have been at Suncorp if he had been fit to take his place. He would come on to the bench for the very unlucky Dean Young.
Gidley is the perfect interchange player not only because he covers so many positions, giving the team enormous flexibility, but also due to the energy that he provides when sent into the action.
He has the knack of immediately playing up-tempo and in Origin matches that kind of lift can prove invaluable in changing momentum at key times.
Despite just one game back from injury he is a superb athlete, and after watching his 80-minute effort against the Eels there are no fitness concerns.
Two late match-saving tackles in the closing minutes were a true test for his shoulder and another full game against the Tigers this weekend will ensure that he is ready to go.
The other inclusion would be prop Michael Weyman who has worn a sky blue jersey the last two campaigns.
I rate him the best metre-getter south of the Maroon border, with the huge bonus of a very quick play-the-ball for such a big unit.
After missing three matches for the Dragons earlier in the season he is now back to full fitness and has again been a big contributor to their record joint-venture club winning streak.
Queensland gained the early ascendency in Origin I with the forward roll they enjoyed in the opening 20 minutes. This needs to be addressed by the Blues who need to fight fire with fire, and I don't think there is a better go-forward player available than Weyman.
I agonised over which of the four front-rowers would make way for his selection and eventually opted for Trent Merrin. I liked his 25-minute debut effort and I'm certain he will be a representative player for many years to come but in a must-win, series-saving encounter I went for the superior experience of the other props.
Because of the qualities I mentioned pertaining to Weyman, he would be in my run-on side.
Peter Sterling's NSW lineup for State of Origin II
1. Josh Dugan
2. Jarryd Hayne
3. Michael Jennings
4. Mark Gasnier
5. Akuila Uate
6. Jamie Soward
7. Mitchell Pearce
8. Michael Weyman
9. Michael Ennis
10. Kade Snowden
11. Beau Scott
12. Greg Bird
13. Paul Gallen
14. Ben Creagh
15. Tim Mannah
16. Jason King
17. Kurt Gidley