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Experts' view: Who'll make Origin debut in 2021?

Every year we see a select group of young players throw themselves into the Origin selection picture.

Some get a start, others are made to wait and some fade out of the selection picture as quickly as they marched into it.

The contenders for 2021 debut appearances offered by the experts at is packed mostly with potential NSW players. 

The reason for that is that after the Maroons fielded 14 debutants in last year's Ampol State of Origin series, their next generation of players largely already there.

Experts' view - Who'll make Origin debut in 2021

Steve Renouf (Maroons legend)

Ryan Papenhuyzen is ready for Origin after missing out last year. His start to this year shows he is ready to go. He's looking like a great bench option for NSW.

Brett Kimmorley (Former Test halfback)

Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton and Brian To'o. Luai is my first pick, he was in camp last year and has already been part of the emerging Blues. His combination with Nathan Cleary will certainly add to his claims when selection comes around.

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Jamie Soward (2010 premiership winner)

Zac Lomax. He is an elite goal kicker who has been on fire carrying the ball and also loves scoring tries. For me, a big improvement has been his workload at the back of the field. He is ready.

Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers great)

Ryan Papenhuyzen. It will most likely be in the No.14 jersey, but he has shown he has everything you need to be a dangerous option in the last 15 minutes of each half. Give him half a chance and he is gone.

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League) 

Even though Harry Grant seems to have the inside running for the Queensland No.9 jersey, Reed Mahoney has been a standout performer in the opening weeks. He has been offering crisp service, running the ball when needed and his kicking game has improved substantially. His defensive skills have never been in question.

Brad Walter ( senior reporter)

Zac Lomax. The Dragons star is quickly proving to be one of the best centres in the game and is surely closing in on rep honours after being in last year’s extended Blues squad. Can also play fullback or wing and a good goal kicker.

Paul Suttor ( editor)

Brian To'o deserves to get a NSW wing berth alongside Josh Addo-Carr ahead of Blake Ferguson. The Penrith speedster has been the best metre-eating winger in the NRL, he's an athletic finisher, solid defender and clearly has the confidence to handle the big stage.

Alicia Newton ( reporter)

He’s only been back a few weeks now but Victor Radley had the runs on the board long before he suffered an ACL rupture last season. Radley is hot on the tails of Jake Trbojevic in the lock role and has the ball-playing ability to trouble the Maroons.

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Zac Bailey ( reporter)

Ryan Papenhuyzen. The Storm fullback was unlucky to miss out in 2020, but his form in 2021 will be too good for NSW coach Brad Fittler to ignore. Papenhuyzen could be the Blues ideal super-sub off the bench. A true game-breaker.

Chris Kennedy ( reporter)

Zac Lomax. The Blues arguably could have used a specialist centre last year and with the young Dragon continuing last year’s strong form in the Red V’s 4-2 start to the season, particularly in defence, he should go from extended squad member to starting centre.

Paul Zalunardo ( senior journalist)

Jarome Luai. His combination with Nathan Cleary at the Panthers is first-rate. There is no reason that can't carry that across to the Origin stage. No mark against Cody Walker, but maybe the addition of Luai will see the best that Cleary has to offer emerge in the interstate series.

Lone Scout ( Fantasy guru)

Luke Keary’s injury and Penrith’s red hot form means Jarome Luai has got to be short odds to get an Origin debut. NSW have favoured club combinations in the halves before and few pairings have played together since childhood or complemented each other as much as the Cleary-Luai duo.

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Troy Whittaker ( reporter)

After being included in the NSW squad last year, five-eighth Jarome Luai has only enhanced his claims for a debut. With Luke Keary injured, Luai’s brilliant halves combination with Nathan Cleary at Penrith could convince Brad Fittler to pick him ahead of Cody Walker.

Dan Walsh ( reporter)

Reed Mahoney. If Harry Grant is fit he won’t, but across the course of Parramatta's start Mahoney has taken his game to a new level, with ball-playing and a creative dimension we haven’t previously seen in his game. He already the tackling and toughness needed for Origin.

Martin Lenehan ( senior journalist)

Zac Lomax has been in sensational form for the Dragons and should be at the front of the queue when Brad Fittler picks his centres. The Blues paid the price for not picking specialist centres last year but they won't make that mistake again and Lomax is ready.

Kenny Scott ( podcaster)

Reed Mahoney. Yes, Harry Grant is the boy who will become King, but Reed Mahoney has been playing with such energy and spark that he simply can’t be left out of the team. He would be the perfect utility to carry on the bench as injury cover or to inject late into the game when the fatigue factor is high.


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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.

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