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Freddy and Kevvie have tough 11th-hour decisions to make

It’s the final round of club football before Origin coaches Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters name their teams, so both will use this last opportunity to sift through the uncertainties in their teams.

For Freddy, he has to settle his halves make-up. For Kevvie it’s his bench.

NSW has two players locked in already. We know fullback James Tedesco is going to be there and hooker Damien Cook as well.

So how does Freddy manage the halves? I feel if Luke Keary recovers from the concussion he suffered on Friday against Newcastle that he must be in there, just based on his form the last couple of years. So who plays with him at No.6? Or does he in fact have to play five-eighth?

We have seen that Keary handles No.7 superbly, so does it now become a question of the NSW selectors looking for a No.6, like a Cody Walker, now that halfback is taken care of?

Both Keary and Walker played together with Souths Sydney in the 2016 season, when Adam Reynolds had some injury problems. Of course Reynolds and Keary were the Rabbitohs' premiership-winning halves in 2014, so does Reynolds come back to the NSW Origin team with Keary staying at No.6?

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Cook playing with Reynolds or Walker gives you great communication, but you’ve also got that with Tedesco and Keary so no-one in the spine is in unfamiliar territory.

Mitchell Pearce put his hand up again on Friday night. He and Keary would also make a good duo since they had the 2017 Telstra Premiership season together at the Roosters.

That’s where the interest lies in how the coaches massage the make-up of their teams.

Back in my days coaching the Queensland team, Johnathan Thurston was our No.7 when Darren Lockyer was No.6. Then we brought in Cooper Cronk but he came off the bench for his first two series (2010-2011) with the Maroons.

But we all knew Cooper was a halfback so when Lockyer finished, Johnathan put his hand up and moved over to No.6. So the transition worked really well for us and NSW might be looking to do something similar this time around.

The advantage of Keary is that he played with the Kangaroos in October last year. He's played with Tedesco and Cook at the highest level so there’s no dilemma about playing him in the halves. It just becomes a question of which number is on his back.

Again, it all hinges on whether Keary is given the all-clear, but he certainly deserves his chance.

After that is settled, Freddy has to look at his bench to see if Payne Haas is a real option for him as an interchange forward now that Tevita Pengai jnr has put his hand up for Tonga.

Kevvie will be watching the players he’s got earmarked to fill his bench to give him versatility. The starting team picks itself if Daly Cherry-Evans is right to go, because that will put Michael Morgan to the centres, where he’s played successfully before in Origin.

2019 Players’ Poll: State of Origin

Having his talent in a few positions in the side is essential but I don’t see him as the bench utility. If Ben Hunt plays No.9 then you need someone on the bench to cover him because he won’t play 80 minutes.

It’s got to be someone who also has that versatility. Jake Granville only plays hooker. But with Morgan there, if something does happen in the halves he can slip back in there. If something happens to Kalyn Ponga at fullback, Cameron Munster, Morgan or even Dane Gagai can go back to No.1.

I think Kevvie needs an edge back rower, who can also play in the centres. So if Matt Gillett or Felise Kaufusi goes down, then your bench back rower is there. But if a centre or winger goes down then someone like Gillett or Ethan Lowe can also play in the centres to give you that coverage during the match.

I suppose the main thing for both NSW and Queensland is to have everyone come through round 11 unscathed, or in other words no injuries or suspensions.  


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