Andrew Johns urges Michael Maguire to make drastic changes to NSW State of Origin team

The Blues great wants to see Mitchell Moses and Cody Walker recalled for Game II.

NSW legend Andrew Johns has urged Michael Maguire to overhaul the Blues spine by bringing in Cody Walker and Mitchell Moses in an attempt to level the series. The NSW coach has a plethora of decisions to make ahead of Game II after a Game I disaster against the Maroons.

On Sunday night Maguire will reveal his team for the must-win match in Melbourne, with up to five changes expected from the side that lost the series opener in Sydney. Maguire's first game as NSW coach couldn't have gone much worse, with debutant centre Joseph Suaalii sent off just seven minutes into the match after his shoulder made direct contact with Reece Walsh's head.

Andrew Johns wants to see Mitchell Moses and Cody Walker recalled for Game II. Image: Getty
Andrew Johns wants to see Mitchell Moses and Cody Walker recalled for Game II. Image: Getty

Suaalii was subsequently suspended for the hit and it is widely expected that Latrell Mitchell will take his spot in the side for Game II after starring in recent weeks. However, the fullback, five-eighth and halfback spots aren't so clear-cut.

Despite calls for Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards to be given the Blues fullback jersey in recent years, Maguire's predecessor Brad Fittler, continued to show loyalty to Tedesco. Maguire, however, insisted he would pick solely on form and turfed Tedesco for the Panthers No.1. However, he was forced to recall the Roosters fullback after Edwards picked up an injury in the Blues camp ahead of Game I.

Given another chance to impress due to the unfortunate injury to Edwards, Tedesco showed glimpses of his best but wasn't able to put together a complete 80-minute performance. At club level since, he has been impressive without setting the world alight. Edwards will face the Knights on Sunday afternoon in his first hit out since being ruled out with injury, desperate to make one last bid to secure the Blues No.1 spot.

While in the halves, Nicho Hynes was underwhelming in Game I and hasn't fired in the NRL since. If Maguire is to go another direction, Moses is the most likely option as the Parramatta star has been impressive in all three games at club level since returning from a foot injury.

The five-eighth spot is also seemingly up for grabs with Jarome Luai favourite to hold onto his jersey. But Souths star Walker has been instrumental in the Rabbitohs' form turnaround of late and also has chemistry with Mitchell. And Johns hopes that NSW's game-winning combination from last year's Game III of Moses and Walker take the field for the Blues must-win game in Melbourne.

"I'd go with Cody (at five-eighth), Latrell on the left with Cody," Johns said on the Nine Network's Sunday Footy Show. "And Mitchell Moses (at halfback). It's nothing on Jarome's form, it's just combinations. Mitch Moses and Cody Walker complement each other far better than a Moses-Luai combination."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05:  Nicho Hynes of the Blues reacts after a Maroons try during game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Nicho Hynes' Blues spot is under threat.

Former NSW coach Fittler agreed with Johns that Walker and Moses are the best options for Game II after the Parramatta halfback was ultra-impressive despite his side losing to the Roosters 28-18 on Saturday night. Interim Parramatta coach Trent Barrett - who played 11 games in the halves for the Blues - also threw his support behind Moses' Origin bid.

"From a State of Origin point of view, he's our best option," Barrett said of Moses. "He was good (against the Roosters). He did some really good things again."


As well as potential changes to NSW's spine, Maguire will also need to make a call on whether to play a utility on the bench such as Matt Burton. Decisions also loom in the back row, with Liam Martin and Haumole Olakau'atu set to overcome injury scares and play for Penrith and Manly respectively on Sunday. They will still face competition for their spots from Mitchell Barnett - who was a standout in a losing side on Saturday evening - and Cameron Murray - who is a Blues regular in recent years and got through his first match back from a hip injury unscathed on Friday night.

If Barnett or the Souths captain were to slot into the Blues fold it would likely be at the expense of Origin I debutant Cameron McInnes, Olakau'atu or Hudson Young.

with AAP