The NRL recently announced the Holden State of Origin series will be held this season after the Grand Final on October 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic which has thrown up an entirely new dimension for Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler to consider when selecting his team.
The threat of injuries, suspensions or form could be more pronounced with 20 rounds of football plus finals to be played before the big dance but Fittler will be ready for anything that comes his way after naming a 64-man training squad last season that included the NSW Blues, Emerging Blues and Future Blues. The coach has already shown over the past two seasons he is not afraid to make bold calls after naming 11 new faces to make their debut in Game One in 2018 and making seven changes to the team to help save the series in Game Two last year.
The NSWRL has cast their eye over the squad and broken them down into three groups we will show over the next three days including outside backs (The Showstoppers), forwards (The Engine Room) and fullbacks and halves (The Playmakers) who could be called upon in 2020 depending how their season pans out. It is important to note the NSWRL is not saying these players will be selected for Origin this season but they are players who have already been identified by Fittler and his coaching staff of being more than capable to take that next step.
Club: Brisbane Broncos Age: 21 Position: Centre
Staggs is currently plying his trade as a centre at the Broncos but is extremely versatile and could fill any number of positions on the field. He can also play in the forwards and has been even used as a stop-gap measure in the halves, most recently in the Broncos last game when Brodie Croft left the field through injury. Big, powerful and with a killer instinct near the line, Staggs grabbed a hat trick against South Sydney before the NRL shut down due to the coronavirus crisis (taking his tally to 13 tries from his last 11 games). He can also kick goals if called upon. The best news for NSW fans is that although he could play for Tonga and has already represented them in line with his father’s heritage, his heart belongs to the Blues after he grew up dreaming about playing for them.
Club: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Age: 19 Position: Centre
The Sharks speedster was captured on hidden camera by the club last season getting emotional after being called up to make his NRL debut but he needed only two games to show why coach John Morris had faith in him. Looking down and out against Penrith in Round Six, Xerri got the ball on his own 30-metre line and then turned Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak inside out on his way to scoring a try that sparked a comeback win. He grabbed the first hat trick of his career against the Dragons in Round 11 and finished the season with 13 tries from 22 games. He missed the opening two rounds of the NRL with a foot problem but will be raring to go when the NRL competition resumes.
Club: Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Age: 22 Position: Winger
Garrick was one of the surprise packets of the NRL last season. He came to Manly after missing out on a shot at the Dragons having come through their lower grades and made his debut in the opening round of the season. He quickly proved himself to be a great finisher and an accomplished goal kicker. The Manly flyer had his first career-high after scoring all the Sea Eagles points in their 18-10 win over Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in Round Eight and he scored his first hat-trick against the Parramatta Eels in Round 18. He finished the season with 16 tries and 68 goals to earn representative jumpers for the Prime Ministers XIII and Australia at the World Nines. Garrick has been working with coach Des Hasler in the off season to take his game to the next level.
Club: South Sydney Rabbitohs Age: 20 Position: Winger/Centre
Graham could have easily pursued a representative path with Scotland or England and was even being leaned on by South Sydney's English imports the Burgess brothers to make himself available for the Great Britain Lions’ end of season tour last year. He has also been on the radar of Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler after being part of the Emerging Blues squad for the past two years and played for the Prime Ministers XIII and Australia at the World Nines. He can play both as a winger or as a centre but has said the latter is his preferred position after playing his junior football there. At 197cm he has a distinct aerial advantage over many of his opponents and finished last season with 14 tries from 27 games.
Club: Canberra Raiders Age: 22 Position: Centre
Scott was amongst the contenders to make his debut in the centres for the NSW Blues in 2019 until a foot injury derailed his season. He already has a premiership to his name after winning the Grand Final with the Melbourne Storm in 2017 but managed only nine games last year because of his injury. He shifted to the Canberra Raiders for 2020 after signing a lucrative, long-term deal and showed a good turn of foot to chase down a kick and score his first try in the lime green jumper against the Warriors in Round 2 before the NRL competition was shut down. A naturally aggressive player with a high work ethic, Scott will be looking to resurrect his representative dreams for the Blues in 2020.
Tomorrow: The Engine Room