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 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 tough decisions 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 showed the outside backs (The Showstoppers) yesterday, we will show the forwards (The Engine Room) today, and fullbacks and halves (The Playmakers) tomorrow. 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 capable to take that next step.
The Engine Room
Club: Parramatta Eels Age: 25 Position: Backrow
A talented backrower with a huge motor, Matterson can fill in other positions on the field including five-eighth and centre. He already has a premiership ring to his name after being part of the Sydney Roosters team that beat Melbourne in the 2018 Grand Final and was on the cusp of Origin selection last season after being brought in as 18th man. He switched to Wests Tigers in 2019 but the move wasn’t a happy one and by the end of the season he had signed a three-year deal to reunite with his junior club, the Eels. He played the opening two rounds of the season and got through 80 minutes of work produced one line break assist and five offloads to suggest he could be in for a big year.
Club: Sydney Roosters Age: 22 Position: Lock
The Roosters enforcer earned the nickname ‘Victor the Inflictor’ for the punishing try-saving tackle he came up with on Manly’s Dylan Walker during a memorable match in 2018. He has quickly carved a reputation in the NRL as one of the game’s fiercest defenders and has had plenty of time to hone his technique after spending time at hooker when Jake Friend was injured. He has played in the last two premiership wins for the Roosters and was named at lock for the Under 23s Australian Kangaroos side that walloped France 62-4 last season. He was part of the NSW fabric last season after being named as an emergency and will be ready to go if the call-up comes this year.
Club: St George Illawarra Dragons Age: 26 Position: Hooker
McInnes started his career with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and there was a time when he duelled with Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues incumbent hooker Damien Cook to wear the No.9 jumper at Redfern. A crafty hooker who can split the defence and sniff out a try, he made the decision to move to St George Illawarra Dragons in 2017 to cement a starting spot. He was expected to miss 12 weeks at the start of the season after tearing the medial ligament in his knee at the Nines tournament in Perth but is expected to be back on deck when the NRL competition resumes on May 28.
Club: Parramatta Eels Age: 27 Position: Lock
Brown is a hard-nosed forward who has missed more than his fair share of game time through injury or suspension. He arrived at the Eels via Wests Tigers and South Sydney with former Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire describing him as a good player who needed to find a way to manage his aggression, particularly when he was under fatigue. In 2018 he missed a chunk of the season with an ankle problem and last year he was sidelined for another long spell after tearing his pectoral muscle. He had a taste of representative football last year after playing for the Prime Minister’s XIII and Australia at the World Nines and played the first two games in 2020 before being suspended for dangerous conduct on Gold Coast Titans winger Dale Copley.
Club: Manly Warringah Sea Eagles Age: 26 Position: Backrow
The son of True Blue and former Balmain Tigers backrower, Paul Sironen, has always had a big rap on him since he was first pegged as a potential halves option for Wests Tigers in 2012. He can sniff out a try, get away an offload and has represented the NSW City Origin team four times against NSW Country. Injuries have always found a way of derailing his momentum and season with the list including a knee reconstruction, shoulder problems and a torn pectoral muscle. He managed 22 games in 2019 before a foot problem robbed him of the chance to play in the finals series for the Sea Eagles but he was rewarded for a good year after being named in the extended NSW Blues squad.
Tomorrow: The Playmakers