Voss: Should Slater have been selected?
Andrew Voss asks if Queensland should have picked Billy Slater for State of Origin I, gives his tip for Game One and the series, gives an early selection for his rookie of the year and asks where to now for the Warriors?
Who wins State of Origin?
If you've followed this column over the years you will know that I've tipped Queensland all the way through the majority of their magnificent era.
But now, I'm hopping off the wagon.
The dominance is about to end.
New South Wales has picked a side that will win at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday, and while plenty can happen between fixtures with injuries, I believe a 3-0 series result to the Blues isn't out of the question if the squads remain the same.
That's right … I've said it.
The Blues to win Origin I.
The Blues to win the series 3-0.
Should Queensland have selected Billy Slater?
Of course they should.
What were they thinking? To be honest, I'm still in disbelief they didn't.
Corey Oates, Justin O'Neill, Will Chambers and Dane Gagai are all terrific players. But none of the four come close to Slater.
I can't understand the logic of any of it in not including one of the Maroons' modern day champions. Suggestions around loyalty do not make sense.
Slater has played 27 Origin games for his state. That's 13 games more than the other blokes combined (Oates 3, O'Neill 3, Chambers 4, Gagai 4).
None of them, in my opinion, have earned the right to their position, especially with a fit and in-form Slater again available after missing last year's series.
And finally, you can't talk about picking a player out of position as any sort of argument to Slater's non-selection. In the case of Dane Gagai, he hasn't played wing at club level since July 2012. His only matches on the wing in the last five seasons have been when he has been called up for Queensland.
For the record, included in Slater's Origin career are three games on the wing, and two off the bench.
Sorry to my mate Kevvie, but Billy just had to be in Queensland's 17 for Game One next week.
Who were the other unlucky players not to be picked for Origin?
Aside from Slater, there are a few players who can feel fairly disappointed not to be lining up next Wednesday night.
If it is about rewarding form then the Dragons' Paul Vaughan and the Broncos' James Roberts wouldn't have been out of place in a Blues jersey. I think the New South Wales side would be better for their inclusion. Likewise, Manly's Dylan Walker had a strong case. His form is far better now than when he was picked previously to play Origin.
As for Valentine Holmes and Trent Merrin who both played for Australia less than a month ago, it's not the first time such a scenario has happened in regards national and state selections.
I can push the barrow of Holmes, but not ahead of Slater. Meanwhile I believe Merrin would be of more value to the Blues on the bench than Wade Graham. I reckon Wade is either in the starting side or not at all.
In the Telstra Premiership, what's changed since last season?
With the exception of the return to form of the Roosters, the answer is not a great deal when you compare the current ladder from this time last year.
Let me run you through the stats in terms of competition point tallies.
Storm same. Broncos same. Sharks -2. Roosters +12. Dragons +4. Sea Eagles +4. Cowboys -4. Raiders -1. Bulldogs -4. Eels -2. Panthers -2. Titans -2. Rabbitohs -2. Warriors same. Tigers -2. Knights +1.
Keep in mind, this time last year Parramatta still hadn't been deducted their competition points, meaning the Titans were the only side outside the top eight that would go on to make the finals. Is it possible the current top eight will be the ones fighting out the playoffs in September?
I reckon you can lock in the current top five, and I won't be leaving out the Cowboys or the Raiders, so that leaves just one spot. But I've been wrong before.
Who is the early frontrunner for rookie of the year?
They may have to rewrite the criteria for this one because I would have South Sydney's Angus Crichton as a standout. Problem is he appeared in eight matches last season, however only starting in one.
Now he's an 80-minute player with a high work rate and plenty of quality. And he's getting better by the week.
Of those who have made their NRL debuts this year, Canberra's Nick Cotric has my vote. He was one of the most talented schoolboy footballers I've ever called, and is handling the transition to first grade at 18 years of age comfortably.
Where to now for the Warriors?
I thought their performance last week against the Dragons was a bigger disappointment than their horror second half collapse the previous round against Penrith.
I can put it no other way than this.
If the Warriors don't beat a Brisbane side on Saturday that is minus half-a-dozen players on State of Origin duty, you can scratch them for yet another season.
Sadly, for a side with plenty of potential on paper, some already have.
I'm off to Canberra this Sunday for Fox League. I've got a feeling the Raiders might be ready to produce their attacking best against the Roosters.