It didn’t take long after NSW’s loss in the opening Origin game for the chatter to start about changing the halves. Is it panic? Or is it informed opinion? Or is it purely media driven?
My thoughts are that Nathan Cleary has been gradually building some solid form. He was very stable in game one, so I’m not sure why there’s talk about removing him, considering they picked him game one and he’s playing better now.
However, I can understand there's pressure being applied by Mitchell Pearce, who is in career-best form.
And as for Cody Walker, it was his first game. You can’t drop him after just one game. What he did was OK, and if I’m Cody I’m saying to the coach: ‘Give me another crack. I know what Origin is about now. I know I can handle it. Just give me that chance’. Redemption is always a great motivator.
Remember Cody was the form five-eighth of the NRL prior to Origin. He didn’t play last weekend, but he is this weekend for an under-strength South Sydney. He is without his halves partner in Adam Reynolds, ironically against Cleary and James Maloney from the Panthers. What a great opportunity for him.
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My question is what has Cody done wrong? What has changed in a week? He was the best No.6 going around from the 16 playing at the elite club level, and in my eyes that doesn’t disappear in one night. Cody as a runner in tandem with the organising skills of Cleary or Pearce makes sense to me.
I’m at a loss why you would change the NSW side anyway – aside from the injuries to David Klemmer and Nick Cotric. The NSW set-up that was part of the preparation and who played at the Suncorp battle were very happy with the way everything came together. They would have learned some great lessons from that match and will be better for the experience.
Having that familiarity and unity is a critical element for both teams going into game two. I believe in having faith in people; trust the systems you’ve worked hard on to get everyone ready and stay passionate and positive.
One forced change is Big Klem. It’s an interesting one – do you start Payne Haas? Or do you bring in another front-rower with more NRL experience, perhaps some rep experience?
There is a thought that inexperienced players should start to allow them to get into the flow of the game much easier. You’re not sitting on the bench letting nerves take over. So I’d probably start Haas, or you could possibly push Jake Trbojevic up into the front row.
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Everyone is saying NSW needs another big body. But my feeling is you need mobility over size and brute strength. So I’d be looking at someone with mobility and if they happen to be a big body then that’s fantastic.
Matt Lodge will handle it, and yes he is inexperienced at this level, but Reagan Campbell-Gillard or Matt Prior are not. They’ve played Origin before so they are the two obvious choices in my mind.
Nick Cotric out with injury, Tom Trbojevic welcome back.
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For the Maroons, Joe Ofahengaue has a badly gashed knee and since Tim Glasby was 18th man for game one, he’d be the natural progression there. Newcastle has been going really well and Tim has been a part of that.
But I’d also consider Jarrod Wallace or Christian Welch. They are two players with great mobility and good motors, so they're great coming off your bench.
With Joe not there, there’s always the question of what coach Kevvie Walters might do with Dylan Napa. Does he use him from the whistle, keep him on the bench or does the other three just mentioned replace him? One thing for sure barring injuries there isn’t any critiquing about any of the Maroons players!