Origin II is almost here, and it’s not too late to get your Origin Dream Team together to challenge for the $5000 major prize.
Let’s take a look at the contenders in each position, and why they warrant inclusion in your side.
Fullbacks Billy Slater and Josh Dugan will be popular choices, and for good reason. Slater scored 39 in a losing side in Game I, while Dugan has been a handful since making his Dragons debut, averaging just under 55 points per-game for the Red V. Making his Origin debut, Nathan Merritt is very much an unknown DT quantity. If he searches for work and snares a try (or two), he could be your point of difference at the back. Likewise Brett Morris. Queensland wingers Darius Boyd and Brent Tate will no doubt be looking to score on home soil, so if you’re tipping a big Maroons victory, either one could be your man.
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In Game I, Michael Jennings was the CTR to beat, finishing with 53. Over on the other edge, Josh Morris scored just 4. While it’s easy to see why Jennings might work his way into your side, you’d be brave to pick Morris. Particularly quiet in Game I, there’s been plenty of talk surrounding Greg Inglis, and how the Maroons are looking to get their strike weapon more involved. There’s every chance he could double his Game I score of 27, and is firming as a must-have in the centres. Don’t forget about Justin Hodges, either. The experienced centre can cause havoc on his day, and would be unique selection.
Cooper Cronk handled the majority of the kicking in Game I, helping him to 57, the most of any HLF. He will again shape as a great option. Johnathan Thurston is a proven Origin performer, but can be hit and miss with his DT returns. Did he get his low-scoring game out of the way in Game I? Consider Thurston, particularly if he reclaims goal kicking duties from Cameron Smith. James Maloney was excellent in his Origin debut, and rewarded those who selected him with 48. He’ll be kicking for goal for the Blues again, and is a safe choice, even at Suncorp Stadium. Mitchell Pearce is an interesting one - the halfback can score well on his day, and could be your POD if you’re tipping a NSW victory. Both sides also have utilities on the bench that are available to be selected at HLF. Josh Reynolds didn’t make it onto the field in Game I, but Daly Cherry-Evans could score well, even with limited minutes, given his DT output at NRL level.
DT legend Corey Parker is starting at lock in Game II, and given he scored 44 pts in just 33 minutes in Game I, there’s plenty to like if you’re considering this experienced forward. If you’re looking for an alternative from the home side, Sam Thaiday played 71 minutes and got through plenty of work in the series opener. Chris McQueen is also starting in Game II, but would be a risk. Moving to prop, Nate Myles looms as an interesting selection, while Matt Gillett, Ben Te’o and Josh Papalii are the wildcards. After a NSW 2RF? Luke Lewis was the star in Game I, playing the full 80 and scoring 52. Greg Bird and Anthony Watmough would both be risky propositions, while Ryan Hoffman scored just 24 at ANZ Stadium, despite playing 72 minutes.
Paul Gallen was the best performing FRF in Game I, and was heavily favoured, with just under 50% of coaches including him in their side. He’ll score well again, even in front of a hostile Suncorp Stadium crowd. Andrew Fifita didn’t play many minutes but still managed 39 pts in his Origin debut, while Trent Merrin chipped in with 26 pts. Aaron Woods will run on for his Origin debut in Game II, and would be an interesting choice. He won’t play as many minutes as he does at NRL level though, so keep that in mind. Matthew Scott is the only QLD FRF available here, and is a secure option.
Simultaneously the easiest and most difficult decision you’ll have to make is at hooker. Both Cameron Smith and Robbie Farah are DT guns, but it was Smith who had the edge in Game I, finishing with 61, just five ahead of Farah. Under an injury cloud and with Reynolds on the bench, Farah might not play the full 80. Then again, Smith might make way for Cherry-Evans, but this would be unlikely. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: will Farah carve up around the ruck, or will Smith guide his side to victory at a raucous Suncorp Stadium? Either way, you’ve got a DT superstar in your side. Many are leaning towards Smith, but you should never underestimate Farah.