The brave changes to save the Blues’ series

With any Origin loss comes calls for change – and it’s likely we’ll see a few new faces in State of Origin II – but who should go, and who needs to come in?

Brad Fittler has shown in his tenure that he’s willing to make changes when required, with only James Tedesco and Damien Cook featuring in all 13 games of Freddy’s reign to date.

There’s no chance that we will see the same 17 in three weeks’ time – and while there are obviously a few certainties to retain their spots, there are players who should feel nervous about their place in the team.

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On edge: Tariq Sims

Possible replacements: Angus Crichton, Keaon Koloamatangi, Tyson Frizell, Haumole Olakau’atu

It’s fair to say that Tariq Sims didn’t have his best outing in a sky blue jumper, most notably being caught out defensively by Daly Cherry-Evans for a very soft try. He’s had some great games for NSW, and is undoubtedly capable of bouncing back.

Scrum controversy as DCE strolls in for a try

But the main issue for Sims is that second row is probably the deepest position in terms of the players that the Blues have available. Angus Crichton and Tyson Frizell have experience at this level, Keaon Koloamatangi was around the camp last year and Manly’s Haumole Olakau’atu’s form can’t be ignored – although perhaps his Instagram post cheering for Queensland last night could be.

Any of that quartet could come in for game two, or Sims could just as easily keep his spot and have a blinder – but either way it’s a position of intrigue.

On edge: Liam Martin

Possible replacements: Jake Trbojevic, David Klemmer

The decision to bench Cameron Murray raised eyebrows, and then having him come on and play in the middle for 15 minutes or so before finishing the game on an edge didn’t really work either, until the last few minutes when the Souths captain saw some early ball, and scored a great try.

Martin is a fine player, but New South Wales have a clear ‘big three’ in their forward pack in Murray, Payne Haas and Isaah Yeo – and all three should be on the field as much as possible.

Blues big bopper has try taken off him

With Yeo in the 13, Murray needs to be on the edge and play the majority, if not the entirety of the game.

That would open another spot in the middle rotation, and while Jake Trbojevic seems the logical replacement, a player like David Klemmer would be perfect to rip in and create maximum impact in limited minutes. Whether his card is permanently marked for Origin or not remains to be seen.

On edge: Kotoni Staggs

Possible replacements: Latrell Mitchell, Stephen Crichton, Campbell Graham, Zac Lomax, Matt Burton

The severity of Kotoni Staggs’ injury isn’t fully confirmed, but if it’s just a cork, he will probably be right to back up for Brisbane this week, never mind being in doubt for game two of this series.

Regardless, the Broncos center had a relatively quiet 52 minutes before coming off – and with another star in Stephen Crichton cooling his heels on the bench, and Matt Burton, Campbell Graham or Zac Lomax waiting in the wings, a change could be coming.

This is all a moot point if Latrell Mitchell is fit – his game-breaking ability can’t be ignored and he should slot straight back into the team if he can play – and going solely off last night, Jack Wighton is the center that deserves to keep his spot alongside the Rabbitohs fullback.

On edge: Stephen Crichton

Possible replacements: Api Koroisau, Nicho Hynes, Reece Robson

It was always going to be a tough ask for Crichton to either come on at center or wing as an ‘impact player’, and while you can absolutely make the case for him to be in the starting team in game two, it seems a waste of a bench spot to have him in the 14 again.

Crichton’s first Origin moment a dangerous tackle

Jack Wighton was fantastic in the centers and should keep his spot, which means that a player like Nicho Hynes could come in and play that ‘Michael Morgan role’ that has been in vogue in Origin in recent years – but it might be more beneficial to New South Wales to carry a second dummy half instead.

Damien Cook did some good things, but tackled himself into the ground and could absolutely have used a spell last night. Both Api Koroisau and Reece Robson have played well enough this year to justify selection and could be a nice change of pace option in those middle periods of either half.

On edge: Daniel Tupou

Possible replacements: Josh Addo Carr

The Roosters veteran was a maligned selection for a lot of people, but didn’t do too much wrong last other than being caught flat-footed for Valentine Holmes’ try.

Regardless, it’s an easy swap to make if Fittler feels like he has to ring the changes – Tupou didn’t let anyone down, but Josh Addo-Carr never does either.

Gould’s moment that lost Origin for Blues

And it wouldn’t be post-Origin loss without some completely deranged panic coming from those of a blue persuasion, so for argument’s sake, here are two possible changes that, while extremely unlikely, are tenuously justifiable.

Five-eighth: Jarome Luai

Possible replacements: Mitch Moses

The obsession with combinations in rep football is well known, and Luai has long been the perfect foil for Nathan Cleary – but it was clear last night how much difference having multiple kicking options can be.

While Cleary was hammered all night, and swarmed late in the tackle count to the point that he struggled to find his range, Queensland had Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster all capable of flipping the field.

DCE has 13 kicks to Munster’s 19, with Hunt chipping in with a couple of valuable contributions too. In comparison, Cleary kicked a whopping 20 times, and his club partner only twice.

Parramatta’s Mitchell Moses has, on form, been the best halfback in the NRL in 2022 – his radar is up there with Cleary and Adam Reynolds, and he has enough of a running game to justify his selection in the six jerseys, if the Blues wanted another elite kicking option.

Hooker: Damien Cook

Possible replacements: Api Koroisau

Another controversial one, and extremely unlikely. But for argument’s sake, there’s a case that Koroisau is a more dynamic player at this stage of his career, as well as the fact that he plays his club footy with half of the Blues team.

But Cook has been a mainstay under Brad Fittler, is the incumbent Australian hooker and has had a pretty solid year for the Rabbitohs.

He had some tough moments on Wednesday night where he looked a bit lost at dummy half, but plenty of good touches as well, most notably the brilliant pass he threw that led to Jack Wighton’s opening try, an assist he would have had for Junior Paulo’s try, and some great work to put James Tedesco through a hole.

Of all the changes on this list, this would be by some distance the most surprising.

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