The Maroons who must go: Hodges
The nature of the win by New South Wales in the Origin opener last Wednesday showed to me that after serving their state so well for so long there are a number of players who must now make way for the next generation of the Maroons.
Whether it was their minds or their bodies holding them back there were a number of Queensland players who didn't play with the aggression required in Origin and in order to square up the Series in Sydney there are some changes that need to be made.
Darius Boyd: 'Darbs' is one of Queensland's greatest ever players and there's no way he will be dropped for Game Two but I do think he needs to relinquish his position at fullback so that Billy Slater can come back into the team. I was lucky enough to be sideline last Friday night in Melbourne when Billy tore the Knights to pieces and he's proven over the last few weeks that he's still one of the best fullbacks in the game. He brings what James Tedesco brought for the Blues last week; when those forwards get tired they're so dangerous around the ruck and that's what Billy brings to the team.
Justin O'Neill: I don't believe that Juzzy is playing with much confidence at the moment so I think he's got to go. You need to be willing to take those tough carries in Origin and the players around him like Dane Gagai and Will Chambers both had 20 carries for around 200 metres and at the moment Juzzy isn't offering that aggression that you need. If we bring Billy back and Darius shifts to the wing then the simple solution is to move Dane Gagai to the centres which at the moment gives the team more strike out wide.
Nate Myles: It's hard for me to talk about leaving Nate out of the side because he's been so good for us for so long but unfortunately I think his time might be up. He's performed every time he has put a Maroons jersey on but I think his body is holding him back now. His mind wants to do things but his body is starting to slow down a bit which you could see in the way those young NSW forwards ran through the middle. He's going to be a hard man to replace but it's time to look at some new blood and start getting them ready for the future.
Sam Thaiday: When you start from the bench the coach wants you to have an impact when you get on the field and I think Sammy needs to bring a bit more punch to his work at the moment. Sammy likes to be the guy in camp who mucks around and plays the joker but in Origin you really need to roll your sleeves up and get the job done. He's one bloke you'd love to see get aggressive but for some reason he seems to have lost that aggression. You probably give him another game because you still need some experience in the side but if I was Kevvie Walters I'd sit him down and tell him what he expects of him and what he needs from him when he comes off the bench.
Aidan Guerra: He's not playing like himself at the moment. For some reason he's gone a bit quiet and while I was happy to stick with him for Game One because he can play big minutes and he's a quality player, right now he's just not performing at the level you need, even for the Roosters. If there are young blokes waiting in the wings you probably have to go with them over Aidan.
Jacob Lillyman: He's been an outstanding player for Queensland but I think Jakey has run his course. He's come in at times when we've had our backs against the wall and done a job for us in the past but at the moment we need some guys with a bit of creativity there too. NSW have got players who can offload the ball and pass before the line so it's time that we counter that and produce a bit of that second-phase play ourselves.
Of course, if these guys are to make way we need to replace them and the four guys I'd be picking from are Gavin Cooper, Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess and Korbin Sims.
Coops is a guy that can still do a job for you on that left edge and if Johnathan Thurston plays then their combination can be lethal. He's a great ball-runner, a great defender, a good talker and he did nothing wrong the first game he played for Queensland last year so I think he deserves another crack.
Jarrod Wallace and Coen Hess have both been playing outstanding footy for their respective clubs and look to have bright futures playing for Queensland and then the next option after that is Korbin who is nice and aggressive and will stand up for his teammates.
If I was Kevvie I'd be watching those four guys very closely this weekend to see how they perform for their clubs and whether they look ready for that next level.
It's hard to believe we're halfway through the regular reason already but there's no question two teams in particular are performing beyond my expectations at this stage. I'm not sure anyone expected the Dragons to be so high up the ladder but they've shown that if you stick together as a team you're going to be very hard to beat. If you compare their team on paper to other sides then they don't stack up but they've got that knack of sticking together and playing 80 minutes every week and that's what wins you games. I was disappointed in the Sea Eagles last year but they're playing some terrific footy and it comes largely on the back of two guys, Daly Cherry-Evans and Martin Taupau. Daly is a wonderful player and is playing perhaps the best football of his career and Marty is one of those guys that when he's in form you just don't want to be standing in front of him.
He's so big, strong and fast that he can palm blokes off and make them look silly but last year he was a bit ill-disciplined and spent a lot of time out suspended. He's cut that out and when he's playing like he is now there's no better forward to watch in the game because he is so big and ruthless.