The playmakers pushing for Blues glory in 2020

Stuart Honeysett

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 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 revealed the outside backs (The Showstoppers) on Monday, the forwards (The Engine Room) yesterday and will finish today with fullbacks and halves (The Playmakers). 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 Playmakers

Luke Keary

Club: Sydney Roosters Age: 28 Position: Five-eighth

Keary was poised to make his debut for the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues last season but suffered a bad concussion just before the team was announced. He already has three premierships to his name (one with South Sydney in 2014 and two with the Sydney Roosters in 2018-19) and played five-eighth for Australia at the end of 2018. He attacks the line at speed which makes it tough for any defence, is a great ball player, a handy kicker and an effective defender. He showed his class in the 2018 Grand Final when he took charge of the side to cover for the injured Cooper Cronk and finished the night with the Clive Churchill Medal.

Mitchell Moses

Club: Parramatta Eels Age: 25 Position: Halfback

Moses, the nephew of True Blue and Balmain legend Ben Elias, was named the Dally M Halfback of the Year in 2019 after a strong season at Parramatta. He has blistering acceleration which can tear any defence apart and is also an accomplished goalkicker. He did additional weights work in the off season to bulk up and help with his defence and has also been working with True Blue and Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns to take his game to the next level. He has represented Australia for the Prime Minister’s XIII and the World Nines last season and started 2020 in strong fashion after scoring a try and booting nine goals against the Gold Coast before the NRL competition shut down due to coronavirus.

Luke Brooks

Club: Wests Tigers Age: 25 Position: Halfback

The nuggety halfback was compared to Johns when he first burst on to the scene in 2013 and is one of the most durable players in the NRL having not missed a game for the past two years. He is at his best when he runs the football and has worked hard on his defence the past few seasons. A left-footer with a sharp kicking game he has been encouraged by Tigers coach Michael Maguire to take ownership of the team this season. He was named Dally M Halfback of the Year in 2018 and has also been part of the Emerging Blues squad for the past two seasons.

Clinton Gutherson

Club: Parramatta Eels Age: 25 Position: Fullback

Gutherson faces some stiff competition for the No.1 jumper with James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic in front of him but he was brought into the team as an emergency for Game Two in Perth last year. He is a great support player and provides another attacking foil for the Eels. He is versatile after playing at five-eighth, centre and fullback to start his career before Parramatta coach Brad Arthur finally settled on him to wear the No.1 jumper at the club last season. He has had a taste of representative football after playing for the NSW City Origin team, the Prime Minister’s XIII and Australia at the World Nines.

Ryan Papenhuyzen

Club: Melbourne Storm Age: 21 Position: Fullback

Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler recently revealed the coaching staff have a unique system that allows them to rate players based on every statistic in the game and that Papenhuyzen is top of the list after nearly doubling the score of every other player. The livewire fullback has speed to burn and you just about shut the gate if he finds himself in clear space. Like Gutherson, he has Tedesco and Trbojevic in front of him but the Storm No.1 was part of the Blues Emerging camp last year and has also been coached by Fittler in the Pathways teams. He was used to great effect off the bench by Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy last year and could fill a similar role for the Blues.