NSW mainstays miss out as Blues make bombshell State of Origin calls
NSW fans are sure to be surprised by some of the selections for the State of Origin opener.
Hudson Young, Apisai Koroisau, Nicho Hynes, Tyson Frizell and Tevita Pangai Jr have emerged as the biggest winners for NSW, with the Blues dropping a number of bombshell selections for the State of Origin opener in Adelaide. The make-up of Brad Fittler's squad was confirmed on Monday morning, with all five NRL stars to feature in the Blues' squad for the opening game on May 31 in Adelaide.
Pangai's inclusion is arguably the most left-field selection, with the Bulldogs enforcer coming in at the expense of Manly's Jake Trbojevic. Manly star ruled himself out after pulling up sore from his side's thumping win over Canberra on Sunday, having just returned from several weeks out with a calf injury.
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The issue was serious enough to hamper the Blues stalwart's preparation the Origin series opener, with the NSW side set to miss the tough-tackling Sea Eagles workhorse. Pangai Jr had had his own injury issues earlier this season and after some inconsistent form for the Bulldogs, his inclusion is one of the biggest shocks for the Blues.
Koroisau won the race to play hooker ahead of Blues incumbent Damien Cook, with the Wests Tigers skipper earning a recall off the back of a resurgence of form that culminated in his side's thrashing of North Queensland over the weekend. Koroisau will be the one and only specialist hooker for the Blues, with Hynes to be handed his Origin debut as the bench utility player.
Last year's Dally M Medallist put forward an irresistible case for selection, with the Blues opting to ditch their dual hooker set-up and include him off the bench, with Penrith rival Luai retaining his spot in the halves alongside Panthers teammate Nathan Cleary. In-form Raiders edge forward Young will also debut as a likely option to come off the bench.
Fittler has selected incumbents Cameron Murray and Liam Martin as edge back-rowers, with Newcastle's Frizell earning a recall to the side after almost three years in the Origin wilderness. It's understood Fittler is leaning towards starting Frizell and Young, with Murray and Martin coming off the bench.
Rabbitohs centre Campbell Graham could consider himself extremely unlucky to miss out on the 17-man squad, with Tom Trbojevic's hat-trick for Manly on Sunday doing enough to convince Blues selectors that he's getting back to his best. Canterbury's Josh Addo-Carr also did enough on Sunday afternoon to all but secure one of the Blues' wing spots after making an earlier than expected return from injury. Graham was named as 18th man for NSW, before withdrawing with a sternum injury in a move that sees Stephen Crichton take his place.
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Blues selector Greg Alexander was particularly impressed with Manly's superstar fullback on Sunday. "Tommy has been down and it's no secret," Alexander said on Fox. "Tom has been searching for something and he found it today.
"Great to see him hit the line hard and with a bit more speed than what he has been running at." That has left Campbell Graham without a spot in the 17, going from an option on both the wing and at centre to instead becoming a reserve for NSW.
Koroisau had also looked likely to be overlooked, before his hand in three tries in the Tigers' 66-18 win over the Cowboys on Saturday night swayed selectors.
His combination with Penrith halves Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary, along with hooker Isaah Yeo, has also come to his aid.
"I obviously spent a few years with them, so the combination thing would be pretty easy I think," Koroisau said on Saturday night. The decision to leave Cook out is a brutal one, given he has played every Origin since debuting in Fittler's first game as coach in 2018.
Experience has still largely won out, after Fittler toyed with the idea of only playing one debutant in a series opener for the first time since 1994. Frizell earns his first Blues recall since 2020, with Liam Martin back as another edge forward option for the Blues.
Daniel Saifiti had been considered as an option on the bench, but lost out to Canberra forward Young. Sydney Roosters second-rower Angus Crichton, Penrith centre Matt Burton and Bulldogs centre-turned-half Matt Burton are among the other players set to miss out after playing Game III last year.
LIKELY NSW STARTING SIDE
James Tedesco, Brian To'o, Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic, Josh Addo-Carr, Jarome Luai, Nathan Cleary, Payne Haas, Apisai Koroisau, Tevita Pangai Jr, Tyson Frizell, Hudson Young, Isaah Yeo. Bench: Nicho Hynes, Junior Paulo, Liam Martin, Cameron Murray, Stephen Crichton (18th man), Stefano Utoikamanu (19th man)
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