Maroons wary of Blues monsters
Two years after the Origin big man was placed on the endangered list New South Wales coach Laurie Daley has brought them back larger than life and it's got the Queensland bookends taking notice.
In shifting Paul Gallen to the front row for the 2013 State of Origin Series the Blues went through three torrid encounters using a total of only three different recognised front-rowers but for Game One next Wednesday night NSW will unleash four of the biggest boppers in the NRL today.
In James Tamou, Andrew Fifita, David Klemmer and Aaron Woods NSW have four forwards all taller than 190 centimetres and weighing in at more than 110 kilograms. They are physical measurements unmatched by any member of the Maroons squad – including 18th man Dylan Napa – and their presence leaves no doubt as to where the Blues will be hoping to gain the ascendancy at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday.
Only recently the torrid nature of Origin encounters was believed to have become too much for the big men to cope with but Queensland front-rower Matt Scott says the NSW quartet are not your average front-rowers.
"I remember a couple of years ago they were saying front-rowers were moving towards a smaller, quicker style of player. We've seen that change around a bit now with the dominance of big men back in the game," Scott said.
They've definitely picked a massive side. There are some big boppers in there, big physical lads too – strong and quick. There's no doubt about what style of footy they're aiming to play.
"With a big pack like that, if we can win the ruck and get our line moving forward, that's the best way to defend against players like that.
"The guys they've picked, they're not traditional big front-rowers – they're very fit, fast and agile for their size.
"Look at Jimmy Tamou for example – he's 118kg and runs like an outside back.
"I think the style will suit Origin. Depending on what the ruck speed's like they could be very damaging."
Although just 24 and 21 years of age respectively, Woods and Klemmer were both exposed to high-level representative football in 2014, Woods playing in all three Origin matches and Klemmer joining him in the Kangaroos' forward pack for the Four Nations.
But it is the re-emergence of Tamou and Fifita after serious injuries last season that threatens to cause the Maroons the greatest headaches.
Fifita's size and agility make him almost impossible to stop one-on-one while Scott has witnessed first-hand how far Tamou has come since undergoing neck surgery in the off-season.
"I think he's probably the in-form forward for their side in my opinion," Scott said of his Cowboys teammate. "He's been fantastic for us for the last month or so, maybe even longer.
"It's going to be a tough job on our hands trying to limit his opportunities. If him and Woodsy can create some ruck speed, we're in for a tough night.
"I noticed in pre-season just how hard he was working. I thought mentally that he's obviously made a decision in his head that he wants to come out and probably prove a point, prove that he can still play the type of footy he has been playing."