Joseph Suaalii set for State of Origin debut as Cody Walker adds to NSW halves crisis

One of Michael Maguire's selections has been revealed ahead of the official team announcement.

Joseph Suaalii is reportedly set to win selection in Michael Maguire's NSW team for State of Origin I, but an injury to Cody Walker appears to have thrown his plans into disarray. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Suaalii will get the nod ahead of Josh Addo-Carr and Zac Lomax, while Brian To'o will be the other winger.

Suaalii is leaving the NRL to link up with the NSW Waratahs in rugby union in 2025, but Maguire seemingly has no qualms about picking the 20-year-old. According to the report, Suaalii will be named on the wing for NSW “barring injury or a catastrophically bad performance” against Canberra this weekend.

“I am ready for the job if Madge picks me,” Suaalii said earlier this week. “I am focusing on playing for the Roosters and that is it. But if the opportunity comes I am ready to take it with two hands. I feel like I have put a lot of work into my game. When State of Origin’s played, I feel like the Roosters style of footy resembles what Origin does. It is a dream of mine to play State of Origin.”

Joseph Suaalii and Cody Walker.
Joseph Suaalii is reportedly set to win selection for NSW, while Cody Walker has suffered an untimely injury. Image: Getty

Lomax and Addo-Carr have been popular picks in pundits' State of Origin teams, but their form has dropped off in recent weeks after hot starts to the NRL season. Neither demanded selection as the Bulldogs thrashed the Dragons on Thursday night, and Lomax's rough night saw him sin-binned in the second half.


The call to pick Suaalii won't go down well with some pundits considering he's leaving the code at the end of the year. “I don’t like it,” veteran journalist Phil Rothfield said last month. “It’s not as if we don’t have other options.

"We have Josh Addo-Carr, Brian To’o and Zac Lomax. I reckon Joseph probably isn’t playing quite as well as those three this year. I don’t like rewarding people who have chosen to nick off and play another sport. I’d like to see Madge give someone the Blues jumper who is committed to the Blues jumper for a long period of time.”

Joseph Suaalii and Nathan Cleary, pictured here in NSW State of Origin camp in 2022.
Joseph Suaalii and Nathan Cleary in NSW State of Origin camp in 2022.

But NSW legend Andrew Johns picked Suaalii in his NSW team this week, and Greg Alexander said of the 20-year-old: “He’s tough, strong, he’s fit and he’s fast. We had him in camp last year and you just know he’ll put everything on the line to help NSW win. I’ve got no doubt he’ll be able to fill the role.”

Meanwhile, Walker will miss the Rabbitohs' clash with Parramatta this weekend and miss out on one final chance to press his claims to win the No.6 jersey for the Blues. Walker was man of the match in the dead-rubber Game III last year, but his form has dropped off since.

Walker suffered a low-grade calf strain in last week's loss to North Queensland, and on Thursday evening the Rabbitohs ruled him out of their clash with the Eels. But a club statement said Walker could recover in time for the Origin series opener on June 5, and some reports have suggested Maguire is still leaning towards picking him.

Cody Walker and Brad Fittler after State of Origin III last year.
Cody Walker was man of the match in State of Origin III last year.

Nicho Hynes appears to have the halfback spot secured with Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Moses out injured, while Walker, Jarome Luai and Matt Burton are all vying for the five-eighth role. Johns and Brad Fittler both picked Walker when they names their teams earlier this week.

“Sometimes, going into an Origin camp can help players escape the troubles weighing them down at their club," Johns wrote in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald. “I think that can be the case for Walker. It might be a contentious call, but it’s one Maguire has got to make. He has a pre-existing relationship with Walker, and I’m sure the Souths star will benefit from playing behind a forward pack that is taking him into the contest.”