After a winning series and with most of the incumbent players available, Blues coach Brad Fittler has the luxury of retaining most of his State of Origin incumbents for this year's June 5 series opener.
An injury to Tom Trbojevic, the potential unavailability of Jack de Belin and some form and injury questions over James Roberts are the major issues confronting Fittler.
He also has two incumbent halves playing for a team that is struggling, with another playmaker – Rooster Luke Keary – absolutely booting the selection door down.
NRL.com has analysed the selection case for each of the 17 incumbent Blues players from 2018.
Fullback: James Tedesco
Tedesco was one of the Blues' best last year, is in terrific form for the Roosters and his only theoretical competitor for the spot – Tom Trbojevic – is out injured. Assuming he doesn't get injured himself, he's in.
Left winger: Josh Addo-Carr
The Foxx isn't quite in career-best form at the Storm right now but he's fit, his team is winning, and Telstra Tracker data suggests he's even faster than last year. Fittler already has to replace one winger thanks to Tom Trbojevic's dodgy hamstring so flicking the NRL's fastest man for no real reason is probably not at the top of the to-do list.
Left centre: Latrell Mitchell
Powerhouse Roosters centre Mitchell continues to go from strength to strength. He was a standout through the 2018 series, completely dominating opposite man Will Chambers – who could well be marking him again this year. Arguably the best centre in the world right now.
Right centre: James Roberts
There is plenty of uncertainty over Roberts at the moment. He missed rounds four and five due to a recurrence of his Achilles issues and returned via the bench in round six. However in his four full games he has four tries. There are also questions over how settled he is in Brisbane, with reports he is looking to link back up with Wayne Bennett at Redfern. He needs to show something over the next month to be retained. It's worth noting this his renowned attacking skills went largely unseen in the 2018 series but his supposedly brittle defence proved more than up to the rigours of Origin.
Verdict: Under pressure
Right winger: Tom Trbojevic
In limited game time for Manly this year, Trbojevic has been in red-hot form and as one of the Blues' best in 2018 was an absolute certainty to be retained. However a second hamstring strain now appears to have ended his hopes of featuring in game one but he could still press for a role later in the series.
Five-eighth: James Maloney
It's a big month for Penrith and James Maloney. The veteran five-eighth was a match-winner for NSW last year and did a superb job guiding young halves partner Nathan Cleary through the series. Fittler has played an interesting psychological game with the Panthers halves through his role at Channel Nine, first applying the rev-up with suggestions they don't work well together, then giving them a metaphorical cuddle by declaring he was leaning towards incumbency in the halves. If it wasn't for the sensational form of rival No.6s Luke Keary and Cody Walker you'd say Maloney was safe but at 32 years of age and with some up-and-down form this year it's fair to say his spot is less than guaranteed.
Verdict: Under pressure
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
- Match odds provider: sportsbet
Home Team Maroons Odds
Away Team Blues Odds
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Halfback: Nathan Cleary
Cleary is in a similar situation to Maloney in terms of club form and Fittler's hints that he wants to see more from them as a pairing. However as a much younger player with potentially a decade or more of Origin ahead Fittler will be deeply reluctant to flick the young halfback. Cleary wasn't exactly a match-winner in his maiden series but nor was he asked to be. He played the role he was asked to play well, and defended brilliantly, took tough carries and kicks when he needed to, and bounced up when he got smashed. In short there were plenty of encouraging signs. As a No.7 he could potentially forge a dangerous combination with Roosters pivot Keary either this year or next year. Keary can play halfback as well but otherwise the only pressure being applied is by Adam Reynolds and Mitch Moses, with Luke Brooks and Mitch Pearce a step further back.
Prop: David Klemmer
He's been playing in a losing team but it's hard to blame Klemmer for the Knights' woes, with the big enforcer producing much more work this year than last year with his minutes and tackles both jumping significantly. Reportedly close to being cut for game one last year until an 11th-hour boomer at Canterbury, Klemmer should have no such worries this year.
Hooker: Damien Cook
By the time teams were picked for game one last year, Cook was in a two-way race with Cameron McInnes for the sky blue No.9 jersey. This year both are again in fantastic form however since then Cook has had a blinder of an Origin series and made his Test debut. His combination with his fellow NSW playmakers and his ability to lift to the Origin level of intensity without a drop off in his defensive capabilities or running game were crucial to the Blues' series win.
Prop: Paul Vaughan
The big Dragon was immense for NSW last year and is arguably in better form now than when he made his long-awaited Origin debut last year.
Left-edge second-rower: Boyd Cordner (c)
An incumbent series-winning captain, has since been made the Australian Test captain, he produced a towering series in 2018 and his Roosters are leading the comp.
Right-edge second-rower: Tyson Frizell
Made for Origin, has never turned in a bad game for the Blues, can play edge or middle, just always gets it done. Could potentially be named somewhere other than right edge back row but will certainly be in the 17.
Lock: Jake Trbojevic
Has been close to the Blues' best forward every time he's played, is an incumbent Kangaroo and is in towering form for Manly. Has mostly played his Origins off the bench in the prop rotation but started at lock in game three last year where you would expect him to stay given De Belin's potential absence.
Interchange: Jack de Belin
Has not played yet this year under the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy. A court challenge is ongoing but even if he gets back on the field for the Dragons before game one teams are picked it's hard to see him making the Blues' 17.
Interchange: Tariq Sims
Made his belated Origin debut in game three last year and probably didn't have his best game as the Blues lost the dead rubber. Still, has been in excellent form for the Dragons and has the 'made for Origin' look about him. Plays almost exclusively on the left edge for the Dragons which is Cordner's spot in Origin but could do a job on the right or in the middle at a pinch. Team balance looks to be his greatest worry but should be there.
Interchange: Angus Crichton
Crichton was good in his maiden Origin series without really putting his stamp on things and is currently playing solid footy at his new club the Roosters while adapting to a slightly different role from the one he played at Souths. Like Sims, his greatest threat appears to be team balance if Fittler opts for an extra specialist middle on the bench but should be there.
Interchange: Tyrone Peachey
The Blues struggled to get Peachey into the game in all three matches last year, in part because there was a fortuitous lack of injuries that needed to be covered. Peachey's move to the Titans has resulted in some early-season struggles in his own form as well, although there were some positive signs in last week's loss to Wests Tigers. Depending on what sort of role Fittler wants from his bench utility, Peachey could face pressure from the likes of Jack Bird, Clint Gutherson and Victor Radley.
Verdict: Under pressure
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.