Blues coach Brad Fittler has once again leaned heavily on in-form teams when picking his Origin side for game one – much as he did ahead of last year's successful campaign.
While the ratio of which clubs have supplied the NSW team has shifted significantly, the average ladder position of the 17 players is almost unchanged, at just below fifth.
The average ladder positions of players in the Maroons side has improved slightly, from 8.7 to 7.8.
Overall the Blues have 13 players from current top-eight sides and four from outside the eight – an identical split to last year.
The Maroons have picked seven players from current top eight sides and 10 from the bottom half of the ladder; last year it was eight and nine.
This time last year the Dragons and Panthers were atop the NRL ladder with the Red V supplying three Blues players (Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Jack De Belin) and the mountain men four (Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tyrone Peachey, James Maloney and Nathan Cleary).
The two clubs are now placed 13th and 15th respectively and their representation has dropped to two and one.
Frizell has been a consistent performer since breaking into the Blues side so despite a few form and injury issues deserves his retention while Vaughan was immense in his first campaign and has still been playing well, while De Belin is unavailable.
As a potential long-term Blue who had a solid debut campaign, Cleary did just enough to hold his spot, particularly with so many other playmakers out injured but it was impossible to pick further players from the battling Panthers.
Peachey has moved to the similarly struggling Titans and his own form has also suffered.
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The Raiders – 11th this time last year but fifth now – have gone from no Blues reps to two (Nick Cotric and Jack Wighton).
The Rabbitohs, fourth last year and now first, have gone from two to three despite losing Angus Crichton, with Cody Walker and Cam Murray to debut. The Roosters were seventh but are now third and have increased from three to four reps having picked up Crichton. David Klemmer was last year playing for the 14th-placed Bulldogs but is now at the fourth-placed Knights.
The Maroons' average ladder position of 8.7 last year was heavily influenced by the 15th-placed Cowboys supplying three players (Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper) with Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace from the 13th-placed Titans.
The Storm, who supplied Cam Munster, Will Chambers and Felise Kaufusi in both games, have improved from sixth to second and Dane Gagai's Rabbitohs are up from fourth to first. Morgan and new Cowboys teammate Josh McGuire are in 11th rather than 15th while Josh Papalii's Raiders are six spots higher than last year. Napa's move from the Roosters to last-placed Canterbury pulls the ratio in the other direction.
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While the ladder position players enter Origin camp from can play a role in their confidence and in some cases personal form, it is important to note players can be playing well in teams that are struggling or emerge from struggling teams to play brilliantly in Origin once they are surrounded by the best players.
It has happened countless times; Andrew Johns joined the Blues camp in 2005 from a Knights team that had not won a single game and put in one of Origin's most dominant performances. Johnathan Thurston linked up with the Maroons while his Cowboys were in 15th in both 2008 and 2010 and it never stopped him being a match-winner.
Cleary isn't a lesser player now despite his club dropping to the other end of the ladder and nor does Napa become a lesser player through moving from the high-flying Roosters to struggling Bulldogs.
So while it counts for little once the teams run out on June 5, it did the trick for Fittler and his Baby Blues last year but Kevin Walters and the Maroons won't be worried in the slightest about ladder positions.
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