NRL.com's NSW side for Origin III
After plenty of debate in the NRL.com offices, here is the team we've come up with for the NSW Blues as they look to secure a 3-0 State of Origin series win at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday July 9.
1. Jarryd Hayne (Eels)
While he had a relatively quiet game for the Blues in Origin II, Hayne has been a standout in the NRL this season and while he was outplayed by Storm and Maroons opposition Billy Slater on Sunday afternoon when the Eels met Melbourne, Hayne still punched out 192 metres, two line break assists and four tackle breaks.
2. Will Hopoate (Eels)
Hopoate is a week-to-week proposition at the moment after injuring his shoulder in Origin II but will most likely line up for the Blues on July 9 without any game time in between. Despite carrying the injury throughout the game, the Eels centre still made 82 metres.
3. Josh Morris (Bulldogs)
Rumour has it that Morris should be fit for Origin III after injuring his knee in the series opener. With Michael Jennings being ruled out for six weeks after tearing a muscle we have never heard of, Morris would be an exceptional replacement considering he has made 26 tackle breaks and averaged 99.5 metres per game for the Bulldogs this season. If unfit, we'd shift Hopoate to centre with tackle-busting Panthers winger Josh Mansour to get a debut on the wing.
4. Josh Dugan (Dragons)
There were major concerns over Dugan's capabilities in the centres after only making two appearances there for the Dragons prior to Origin II, but didn't he prove the doubters wrong. The Dragons utility kept Greg Inglis quiet all night and backed it up against the Titans on Sunday afternoon with a game-turning try and 109 run metres.
5. Daniel Tupou (Roosters)
Tupou hasn't done anything spectacular for the Blues in his debut series but he has been safe. The lanky Roosters winger made a respectable 76 metres in Origin II and prevented Brent Tate scoring a try for Queensland in a solid game from the youngster, and he remains one of the most dangerous aerial threats in the game.
6. Josh Reynolds (Bulldogs)
Reynolds became his opposite number Johnathan Thurston's best friend in Origin with a few friendly elbows and headbutts so he will be keen to see him again up at Suncorp Stadium. While he showed his inexperience at times during Origin II, Reynolds will be selected to go around again for the series closer.
7. Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs)
Who would have thought in a million years that Hodkinson would be the man to break the Maroons' eight-year winning streak? With a run out wide and a sneaky dummy past Ben Te'o and Daly Cherry-Evans, Hodkinson secured a place in New South Wales fans' hearts forever and will be leading the charge towards a whitewash on Wednesday week.
8. Aaron Woods (Tigers)
While Maroons coach Mal Meninga believes that Woods was telling fibs when the Tigers prop failed to admit the ball touched him as it sailed out on the full after the only try in Origin II, the behemoth 23-year-old still put forward a contribution of 71 metres and 18 tackles and will hold his spot for the Blues.
9. Robbie Farah (Tigers)
Farah reportedly went on a fun little bender after New South Wales secured their first series win in eight years. With the Tigers having the bye last weekend, apparently Farah decided to cut loose and why not? The experienced hooker smashed out 56 tackles for the Blues and was NRL.com's Man of the Match last Wednesday night and earned the right to enjoy the win.
10. Paul Gallen (c) (Sharks)
The Sharks captain was inspirational in conjuring 183 metres and 37 tackles in Origin II. On top of that Gallen stepped out for the Sharks three days later to smash out 121 metres, four tackle breaks and 43 tackles against Manly. Captain Gal will be looking to bring the pain to the Maroons again come Game Three.
11. Beau Scott (Knights)
Scott made sure Johnathan Thurston didn't forget what the Newcastle back-rower was all about after the cheeky five-eighth slapped him in the face in Game Two. Scott had his revenge when he bulldozed over Thurston to set up a Darius Boyd try as Newcastle thumped the Cowboys on Monday night, and will surely be looking to do more of the same on the Origin stage on July 9.
12. Ryan Hoffman (Storm)
Hoffman was absolutely tireless all night for the Blues in Origin II, with 33 tackles and 134 metres for New South Wales, and he doubled up for Melbourne on Sunday afternoon 101 metres off the bench in another winning performance.
13. Greg Bird (Titans)
The Gold Coast star returned from suspension to put forward a typical Bird-like performance in Origin II. His unsurprising 114 metres, 25 tackles and a couple of penalties for good measure were met with much hurrah from Blues fans and he backed it up in a similar fashion days later for the Titans.
14. James Tamou (Cowboys)
It must have been a bittersweet moment for Tamou when Matt Scott went down for the Maroons in Game Two. In one respect, Tamou didn't have to worry about coming against him for the rest of the evening, but at the same time he lost his Cowboys partner-in-crime for the next month or so. Tamou lifted when needed against the Knights on Monday night, producing 30 tackles and 165 metres.
15. Trent Merrin (Dragons)
Merrin is one of the Blues' major injury concerns heading into Origin III after hurting his ankle against the Titans last weekend. It isn't all bad for the hard-working lock though; he did score the match-winning try for the Dragons and is going out with surfing glamour Sally Fitzgibbon. What more can a man want?
16. Luke Lewis (Sharks)
Considering he has almost played the same amount of games for the Blues as he has for the Sharks this year Lewis is travelling alright. Played his third game of the season for Cronulla last Saturday and knocked out 30 tackles and 64 metres in another terrible loss for his club, and will enjoy the opportunity to rejoin a winning team at rep level.
17. Tony Williams (Bulldogs)
Big T-Rex was dropped for Game Two with Greg Bird making his return from suspension but as it happens Anthony Watmough found himself in the match review committee's bad books, leaving room for Williams to slide back into the Blues 17 again. The Bulldogs forward barely kept Boyd Cordner out of our team but loyalty persisted within the office. Just.