I believe Brisbane should have six players selected for the State of Origin series opener with back-rower David Fifita my pick for the vital utility spot for the Maroons.
If I was selecting the two teams I would name Fifita, Matt Gillett, Corey Oates and Joe Ofahengaue in the Queensland side. Payne Haas and Matt Lodge deserve the nod for NSW.
Fifita is only 19 but he has showed me enough this year to suggest he is ready to play for Queensland. His versatility is a key for me. You can play him in the middle, on an edge or even shift him out to the centres if need be.
He is as strong as an ox and he also has game sense and the ability to break a game wide open. We’ve seen it several times this season where he has scored, set up a try or been involved just before a try is scored.
Fifita is one of those guys who is made for the next level and he has a level head as well. I don’t think Origin would daunt him one bit. I have been disappointed in his limited time on the field for Brisbane this year but each time he has come on he has made a difference.
Selecting the Queensland halves
Ofahengaue was in Maroons camp last year and I know Kevin Walters is a fan of his. Joe has been playing for Tonga previously but has said he wants to represent Queensland this season. I’ve been really impressed with him off the bench, and that is where Queensland can utilise him. I admire his toughness, and he is mobile. You know what he will give. He won’t be taking a backward step and he is a bit of a machine who just keeps going.
Gillett will be picked. He played 18 Origin games in a row before his injury last year and his form has been strong. He is too good a player not to have in there. With a few young boys in the team you need his experience.
Oates will play on that left wing. Lock him in. He has scored nine tries in 10 games and he is so powerful. In Origin his strong carries make him like an extra forward. Give him half a chance and he will score and dominate his opponent. I think he has been one of Brisbane’s best from the start of the season.
There are people pushing for Anthony Milford to be the bench utility but I don’t think his form has been consistent enough. He’s had two really good games so far this year but that’s not enough in my book.
I am confident Ben Hunt will be the hooker and if he needs a break then Josh McGuire could slot in there for a while. I don’t think you need a Milford on the bench. I’d be going with four forwards which is why I have pushed for Fifita.
The Broncos should have two players in the Blues side. I look at what Haas did against the Roosters last week. Even Jared Waerea-Hargreaves found him to be a handful. He scored a try and his work rate was phenomenal. He makes plenty of yards and he carried the ball so strongly. Haas is a monster and is just built for Origin. He could play 80 minutes if need be. He’s just a super-competitor.
Selecting the New South Wales halves
Last week Brad Fittler was commentating and someone said Haas was “outstanding” and you’d like to think that meant a fair bit about him getting his Origin debut. Matt Lodge deserves it too. He is under-rated in that team but the work he does up front is just amazing. He is also tough and takes multiple hit-ups in a set. Lodge is happy to lead and that is what you need in the Origin arena. His form the last couple of weeks has been so strong.
It would have been seven Broncos for Origin if James Roberts had been playing the past three weeks. The Broncos leaving him out have really hurt his chances. I am glad to see him back playing for Wynnum-Manly in the Intrust Super Cup on Sunday. That should be the first step in Jimmy getting back into the Broncos side.
I see no reason why he won’t get back into the first grade team, unless there are political reasons internally behind the scenes. Jimmy is an Origin player. He has been a first grader for a long time and if he shows some good form then he should be back playing NRL soon.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.