Origin coaches get it right at selection table

Heading into Origin III off a big NSW win, Brad Fittler has once again baffled plenty of people with his selection decisions but like his game two team I can see the method in the madness.

This time around, instead of seven changes, there are no changes – with in-form prop David Klemmer's omission driving plenty of discussion.

Yes, Klemmer was outstanding in Origin I and then again in round 15 for the Knights against Brisbane. Yes, I would have picked him if I was selecting the team. And yes, there's every chance he still ends up playing if Tariq Sims is unsuccessful at the judiciary on Tuesday night.

But remember, NSW absolutely pumped Queensland by a score they haven't managed since 2000.

So while I would have picked Klemmer, I also think it's really good they stuck with the team they've got and showed loyalty for a job well done.

I feel for Klemmer but sometimes that's the nature of rugby league, you could miss one game with injury and all of a sudden you're out of a job.

They went into game two with a strategy and picked players to deliver on that strategy and they absolutely nailed it.

It is what it is, this team pumped Queensland by more than they have in two decades so you're pretty hard done by if you got dropped after that. I haven't seen NSW look as much of a well-oiled machine in ages, particularly in wet conditions that are likely to be similar again at ANZ Stadium.

Freddy is sticking to his guns and the whole team should take confidence that the side is unchanged, they know what they have to do and because it's the same team that already got the job done once there are no excuses.

The other question mark is Nathan Cleary's ankle and the decision not to being in another halfback like Mitchell Pearce. It's a longer camp that game two and they already have their combinations down so if he can't train the first session or two it's not as disruptive as it could have been, but how long do you let it go?

They've obviously decided Cleary missing a session or two is less disruptive than changing to a different halfback.

If Cleary doesn't progress as they hope and ends up getting ruled out, I don't expect 18th man Clint Gutherson to come in as the new five-eighth next to Maloney.

I'd be inclined to start Wade Graham there after he did such a good job after Cleary went off in game two, and bring Gutherson onto the bench.

Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster.
Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster. ©Gary Day/NRL Photos

Gutherson is someone who can bring a lot of energy but ideally, you don't want to be throwing a debutant in as a starting half in an Origin decider, particularly one who isn't playing in that position every week.

Gutherson covers most spots in the backline and between he and Graham they have most spots on the field covered, so if Graham has to move to the forwards at some stage Gutherson can come on at five-eighth.

In terms of their game plan, because they've picked the same team I don't see it changing much.

Queensland will know what's coming this time but even then it's another thing trying to stop it.

If NSW get their shape going and present opportunities across the field, how do Queensland compress on them, muscle up and get some slow play the balls and numbers in the ruck knowing that creates an easy shift to some of the wider attacking weapons?

I really like Christian Welch coming in and I can see him starting. He's a real competitor, he does all the little things right and can help them control the ruck which is something he and Tim Glasby have both been very good at coming out of the Storm system.

Joe Ofahengaue back is big too, he was excellent off the bench in game one.

Kevin Walters has announced a squad so we don't officially know who the new fullback is to replace Kalyn Ponga.

Corey Norman is the replacement player and I'd bring him straight into the halves and play Cameron Munster at the back, sort of like an extra five-eighth but running both sides of the field.

I'd leave Morgan at centre; even though it was a tough game two he has a bit more size and is good in defence and can replicate that Wighton type role.

With Morgan at centre and Ben Hunt at hooker that gives them five genuine kickers and ball-players on the field so they can try and replicate a bit of what NSW did in game two with having multiple points of attack.

They can then fan their attack out so instead of worrying about long passes and Ponga's individual brilliance they've got little pods they can attack in with short passes which was much more effective in Perth in the wet and will suit ANZ conditions

I think it will be a tight one but NSW with the home ground advantage and support should get them over the line, I'll tip NSW by something like 12-10.