NRL.com's fearless 2016 predictions: Part 2
In Part 1 of our predictions for the 2016 Telstra Premiership season we covered the big winners and losers of the NRL season – our picks for the premiers, wooden spooners, Dally M medal winners and top try-scorers.
This time around we're looking at State of Origin. Who will be the surprise selections in each team? Who will wear the 6 and 7 for the Blues? And the big one – which state will claim bragging rights in 2016?
Here are our answers.
Chris Kennedy: I'll take NSW purely because they get the rare chance to host two games. Queensland are certainly the better team on paper and have no fears of playing at ANZ anymore. They have the makings of a good forward pack – if the likes of Woods and Klemmer can continue to improve they can go some way to bridging the gulf in class between the respective playmaking contingents.
Dominic Brock: Queensland still have a better team and will for a while yet, so I'll say them.
Tony Webeck: Justin Hodges drops out and Will Chambers and Justin O'Neill are waiting to take his place; there is still unlikely to be room for Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans and Dylan Napa is almost certain to earn his Origin debut. Even with a new Queensland coach Origin is looking very Maroon for at least a couple more years.
Jack Brady: It's way too early to bring up Origin. Game Three of the last series still stings. Can we wait until at least Round 3 to start talking about it? Even then that'll be too much of an ask for some.
Andrew Bryan: Queensland – Predictable answer, but the Maroons still have all the star power. NSW need everything to go right to win the series, two home games is a good start.
Adrian McMurray: NSW. Game Three last year didn't happen.
Chris Kennedy: NSW – Wade Graham, Bryce Cartwright, Jake and Tom Trbojevic. Queensland – Anthony Milford, Dylan Napa.
Dominic Brock: Blake Austin, Wade Graham and maybe Adam Reynolds for the Blues. Dylan Napa and Anthony Milford for Queensland.
Tony Webeck: Dylan Napa was close this year to selection and will be a Queensland Origin debutant in 2016 in what will be likely the only significant change to the Maroons, although you'd have to wonder whether a place could be found for Anthony Milford. Wade Graham is long overdue for a Blues call-up and if Blake Austin picks up where he left off he could find himself in the New South Wales No.6 jersey.
Jack Brady: Surely it's time to give Wade Graham a crack at higher honours on the representative scene? The Sharks vice-captain produced numbers in 2015 that would make Paul Gallen jealous. He's already the City Origin captain so hopefully a Blues jumper beckons. Otherwise if Edrick Lee is good enough to earn 18th man honours for Queensland then surely he's next in line to replace Justin Hodges.
Andrew Bryan: Jarryd Hayne, Blake Austin – I include Jarryd because he is currently not an NRL player, but if he gives up his NFL dream then he is a dead set certainty for NSW. Blake Austin got a lot of hype last year, but given a decent run at the spot, his direct style of play could be what the Blues have been crying out for.
Adrian McMurray: For NSW, I'd expect Wade Graham and Tyson Frizell will both get a taste of Origin at some point in 2016 after being involved in past camps. As for two bolters, if Canberra's halves pairing start the season well... stranger things have happened. As for Queensland, Dylan Napa should be somewhere in the mix. Edrick Lee probably joins the backline for Justin Hodges, while Cameron Munster could also prove to be a viable option, especially if he makes the transition to the centres for the Storm.
Chris Kennedy: I dunno. Too hard. I can't really see Trent Hodkinson being there. Club form will be a factor. Possibly one new face with one old. Given Pearce's encouraging form over Origin I and II 2015 (before the game that shall not be spoken of, which was hardly his fault), I'll go with him to stay at 6 partnered by Adam Reynolds.
Dominic Brock: I can't see Hodkinson keeping his spot unless the Knights make a surprisingly strong start to the season, and the selectors may even opt against Mitchell Pearce if they feel they need to roll the dice. So I'll gamble on Blake Austin and Adam Reynolds, although deep down I know Pearce will be there again.
Tony Webeck: Mitchell Pearce will be halfback again (there's no way he can foot the blame for the Game Three mauling) but the five-eighth position is wide open. Blake Austin is the big body, hard-running No.6 that have served NSW well in the past and James Maloney is likely to be playing in a Sharks team winning more games than they lose.
Jack Brady: If Newcastle can get off to a positive start under Nathan Brown I wouldn't put it past Laurie Daley to pick Trent Hodkinson alongside Jarrod Mullen. The man loves his combinations. It's a massive "if" though. Realistically though, Mitchell Pearce has done his dash and people jumped on the Blake Austin bandwagon far too early in 2015 so put me down for a Jamie Soward/Hodkinson combo – it's what I would've had over the past series too.
Andrew Bryan: Mitch Pearce, Blake Austin. Laurie Daley is loyal and will again pick Pearce in the halves. Austin would be a good foil if given the chance.
Adrian McMurray: It's an out-there prediction, but see Origin bolters/debutants: Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer.