Incumbent New South Wales captain James Tedesco could face a battle to keep his spot for this year's State of Origin series after new Blues coach Michael Maguire refused to guarantee the fullback's place in the squad. The NRL superstar has been a mainstay of the Blues side for years and has captained the team in the last four series - three of which have been won by Queensland.
Tedesco is also captain of the Roosters and Australia but his form over the last couple of seasons has come under serious questions, with the likes of Penrith's three-time premiership winner Dylan Edwards breathing down his neck. Tedesco hasn't missed a game for the Blues since debuting in Game III of the 2016 series, but could see that streak end as Maguire looks to shake things up.
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The Blues skipper was an automatic selection in former coach Brad Fittler's Origin sides but Maguire has warned that he will not pick on reputations or past glories. When asked specifically about whether Tedesco would be part of what is expected to be a new-look Blues squad, Maguire refused to guarantee the 31-year-old's place.
"I respect all those boys that have been in the past, but I'm telling everyone to look forward, we've got to move forward," the NSW coach said. “I know that he’s had a very good pre-season, and no doubt like any champion player, he’s still a champion player. I’m looking forward to seeing Teddy play some really good footy.
“At the moment I’m not going to make any statements around the team, I said that when I first arrived. I want to let the players go and play and then from there we’ll work out which way we want to go.”
Tedesco has played 22 times for the Blues but his selection came under criticism in 2023 after a nightmare Game I of the Origin series. The skipper was at the centre of a number of errors and was famously out-jumped by Roosters teammate and Maroons prop Lindsey Collins for a crucial late try.
The Blues ultimately lost the series for a second year in a row. Mal Meninga came under similar criticism for selecting Tedesco for the Pacific Championship and the Kangaroos were thumped by New Zealand 30-0 in the final, prompting similar backlash to the decision.
Interestingly, Maguire was the man behind that Kiwis thumping of Australia and after leaving his post with New Zealand to take up the NSW coaching role, he's set to do things his own away after bringing in new background staff consisting of a number of former players. Maguire brings assistants Jon Cartwright, Matt King and Brett White, while Melbourne Storm football manager Frank Ponissi will be the Blues' team performance manager.
The NSW coach says form in the NRL will be crucia when it comes to picking his side, despite what out-of-form players might have done before in the Origin arena. “I want players who are in really good form, not a lot of noise around what’s going on, allowing them to be at their best,” he said.
“I definitely am looking at form right now, for sure. History is one thing but I’m looking forward, we want to create (history) too. When you’re in really good form... you take that into the arena, and it breeds around the group, it builds a lot of confidence and belief. I want the NSW players to be the best within their teams, so they’re coming into this arena at their best.”
As well as Panthers fullback Edwards - the Churchill medal winner from his side's 2022 grand final win - other possible contenders for the Blues No.1 jersey include Manly's Tom Trbojevic, South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell, Storm flyer Ryan Papenhuyzen and Eels veteran Clint Gutherson. Papenhuyzen made the Blues squad in 2021 but is returning after a shattered knee cap in 2022 and a fractured ankle last season, while Trbojevic and Mitchell have both had their share of injury dramas over the years.
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