STATE OF ORIGIN

Hodges: No time for an Origin gamble

Ever since State of Origin went to a three-game series in 1983 Queensland selectors have refused to hand an Origin debut to a half in the third game of a series and I don't think that policy should change this year.

For the first time since 1996 when Jason Smith, Julian O'Neill and Dale Shearer all took turns in the famous No.6 jersey the Maroons will have a different five-eighth in all three games in 2017 and for that reason I believe selectors should go with someone who is in great form and has been there before: Daly Cherry-Evans.

It's Game Three, it's the decider, everything is on the line and I'd want a guy that has been there before and played in that big arena.

 


I know how much DCE wants to get back to that arena and stamp himself on the game. That's one place where he hasn't yet performed at his best and I know that is something that would be burning him up. He'd want to prove everyone wrong and prove to himself that he can handle that stage and what better way to show that than in Origin III.

His form at Manly has been outstanding. Some of the passes he threw against the Sharks last Sunday were unbelievable so I'd just tell him to bring the same game that he has been playing for Manly. Just give him the ball when he wants it when Cooper's finished with it and let him do what he does so well at club land.

The last time Daly played for Queensland in 2015 he was partnered with Johnathan Thurston in the halves and while Cooper Cronk is the guy that can run the game-plan for you 'Cherry' is a bit like 'JT' in that he likes to play a bit of ad-lib football, play what's in front of him. The fact that he and Johno play that similar style perhaps meant that they didn't combine as well as they would have liked.

I'd put 100 per cent trust in him to get the job done. I know how much fire he's got in his belly because this is the one stage that he hasn't got on top of so I know how badly he wants to do that.

The other players obviously in the mix are Michael Morgan and Cameron Munster.

'Morgo' is a fantastic player but he might be a victim of his own value as a utility. You saw in Game Two when Willie Chambers got injured he came on in the centres and created that opportunity for Dane Gagai to score in the corner.

He's so good coming off the bench because you can play him anywhere. He's the guy that if you give him half a metre he's going to create an opportunity for himself or other people around him.

You have to have Morgo in your side because you know when he gets on the field something good is going to happen around him.

The positive with selecting Munster is that he has those combinations with Cameron, Cooper and Billy at the Storm but at the same time it can be a big risk when you're asking a young player to make his debut in a vital position at five-eighth and come up with big plays at the right time.

That's what Origin's about. It's about big moments and the question is whether he will step up when the big moments come.

That's when you need someone who is a little bit more seasoned that can handle those moments.

If I was the coach I'd be going with DCE.

Final Thought

When my good mate Johnathan Thurston announced last week that he would need shoulder surgery and not play again this season a lot of emotions go through your body. There's a sadness because you don't want to see a champion like that get ruled out through injury, especially when you know he's not going to play Origin again. Sitting on 299 NRL games is a bit of a bummer but he made the right decision for himself because when you have a wife and three young daughters your health is more important than anything. He's committed himself to the Cowboys for one more year and I've got no doubt that he will see that out. There's no way in the world he'll walk away from the game due to injury. Like every champion he deserves to go out the right way and I've got no doubt Johno will come back and do everything he can to try and win another grand final with the Cowboys before he retires.