Queensland should pick Bowen: Alexander
Mal Meninga is blessed with options to replace injured Queensland fullback Billy Slater but I would go slightly left-field and name Matt Bowen.
Greg Inglis is probably favourite for the Maroons fullback spot given his sensational form from the back for South Sydney this year.
Canterbury's Ben Barba is another leading candidate - he has certainly developed into a State of Origin player this season under new Canterbury coach Des Hasler. Barba would no doubt excel in the Origin furnace.
We also shouldn't forget Darius Boyd - fullback for St George Illawarra in the 2010 grand final and now under Wayne Bennett at Newcastle. Boyd is a proven match-winner at the highest level.
Meninga would be safe with any other of these but I reckon Bowen is the man.
Bowen's form this season at North Queensland has been absolutely first-class. He is experienced, hardened yet still has that striking speed. And, most importantly, I think Bowen would ignite Cowboys teammate Johnathan Thurston. Bowen and Thurston have this uncanny combination at North Queensland. They read each other beautifully.
Thurston has had, for his standards, a quiet series and not that Bowen isn’t good enough to win the fullback spot on his own merits, but the effect his inclusion might have on the Maroons no.6 must surely be part of Mal Meninga’s thinking.
I genuinely believe Inglis would be best left at centre. He has a settled combination with left winger Boyd and moving Inglis would disrupt Meninga's entire backline. There is no real need to reshuffle your backline when Bowen is fit, ready and willing to step in.
Bowen will give the Maroons a real edge in attack. Last Friday against Brisbane, Bowen ran 19 times for 211 metres. He made 15 tackle busts, one linebreak and was involved in two try assists. These stats might just be the clincher in his bid for an Origin recall.
There could be another change to the Queensland side. From all reports, big Dave Taylor is struggling to hold his place. He was disappointing in Origin II and has admitted he let himself down. Sometimes I think Taylor has to be repeatedly told he has the size and power of a freight train.
Taylor should be among the most damaging forwards in the game.
Don't get me wrong, I think he has played a number of strong and powerful games for Souths this year but he just needs to do it on a regular and consistent basis. I would still have him in my 17, just not starting.
I will go into greater depth next week about Origin III but NSW must now feel like they have Queensland's measure.
The Blues aren't and won't be intimidated anymore. The mind games Queensland used to play with NSW are well and truly over.
NSW face their own selection issue after Manly back-rower Glenn Stewart partially tore a medial ligament in Monday night's match against Melbourne at Brookvale. It is a whopping blow for the Blues - Stewart is constantly dangerous on that right edge and also has that natural combination with brother Brett from fullback.
But Glenn is out and NSW must now move on.
In my eyes, coach Ricky Stuart will look at three options: Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman and Feleti Mateo. My choice: Scott. His form this year has, in all honesty, been modest through injury and playing in a struggling Dragons side.
But Scott is an Origin player. He has represented NSW previously and you know exactly what you're going to get each time he hits the field. He is tough, uncompromising and one of the best defensive players in the NRL.
Some players have that knack of being in average form at NRL level before lifting several notches when it comes to playing Queensland. Scott is one player who can do that. Mind you, NSW would also have to consider Mateo from the New Zealand Warriors.
He wasn’t at his best against Cronulla last week but his form leading into that game had been very good. Mateo would give NSW some creativity and a bit of X-factor. He can slip a ball in traffic and just might be able to come up with a play when needed.
I would throw Mateo in if in fact NSW lose a second back-rower in Greg Bird. Bird damaged a pectoral muscle playing for Gold Coast last weekend and remains in doubt for Origin III at Suncorp Stadium.
The final back-rower to be considered should be Melbourne's Ryan Hoffman.
Hoffman was a tad slow to start the season but over the past six weeks his form has been stellar. I thought he was among Melbourne's best in their 26-22 win over Manly on Monday evening. He’s been there before, runs good lines and won't let you down defensively.
Tony Williams of course would slot back in but he’s at long odds to be fit in time.
Aside from the back row, I think NSW is fairly settled. However there does need some thought as to the right wing spot filled by Akuila Uate. He was criticised after game one with the Maroons scoring two tries in his corner; one was while we were down a man and the inside defenders contributed to the second, so I thought the criticism was unwarranted. Game two also saw him receive plenty of attention for not contesting the Cronk bomb right on half time that saw Queensland take the lead at the break. Definitely a costly error but not unforgivable, such was the quality of the high ball from Cronk.
What concerns me is that Uate isn’t doing what he was picked for and that’s busting tackles. This year to date he’s down 30 per cent in that department which means he’s also well down on the metres made per game. Here’s the theory: just like Sampson lost his strength when his hair was cut, Uate has lost his ability to bust tackles because his backside has disappeared.
He looks more like an 800m runner now, not the powerhouse that burst on to the rep scene last year. Newcastle have run him so hard they’ve stripped away what gave him his edge - he’s 7kg lighter than last year. Akuila needs to find a good paddock pretty quickly and get back his mojo, and backside.
Having said that, it is nice to see that outside of injury, NSW has stuck solid with their squad throughout the entire series and their stability could just be the factor that ends Queensland’s dominance.
Get State of Origin news, live scores, stats, match radio and video highlights for all three blockbuster games on your mobile. Download the FREE updated 2012 Official NRL app now.