Having seen likely sides if left in the hands of a) a bunch of old guys who would prefer to play bridge b) Phil headline Gould, lets see what the NSW team should ACTUALLY look like.
1. Brett Stewart. Mini is a good player who would be a real strength for NSW so I would have no arguments if that is the way the selectors go. I love Hodgson as well but I can make no guarantees as to his durability these days. Brett Stewart was outshined by Billy Slater on Friday night - ALLEGEDLY. Brett Stewart's game as a fullback - is going to be governed by how well his team plays. If he spends the night under pressure, he won't shine - but neither will Billy Slater. The media and their praise of Slater went way too far based on Friday's game. Even after Friday's game, lets have a look at the numbers shall we:
Slater - Linebreaks 6, Tackle Busts 28, Tries 6, Try Assists 2, Tackles 43, Missed Tackles 11, Errors 6.
Stewart - Linebreaks 5, Tackle Busts 29, Tries 4, Try Assists 2, Tackles 37, Missed Tackles 9, Errors 5.
So Stewart and Slater have almost identical numbers - one playing for the best team in the comp and one playing for Manly. not as cut and dried as Gould would have you believe.
Anyway, I am meant to be picking an origin side not ranting about the media's coverage of Slater versus Stewart so anyway...
Wingers: Does it really matter?? A rant about clubs who go out and spend actual salary cap money on wingers is long overdue for this website, but lets say Hayne and El Masri here. Was tempted to pick Grothe but I watch him come in far too often on 2 on 2 plays and you can't do that at origin level, can you Phil?
PG: You can't do that at origin level. You aren't an ORIGIN PLAYER.
Centres: Gasnier and Chris Lawrence. There is a high likelihood that Cooper will get one spot and that just sucks. Lawrence is a machine who might suffer if the Tigers continue to shit the bed but I think he needs to be picked.
Halves: Braith Anasta has played a lot of origin games. Here is the first one he has earned.
At 7, you have Gus and his column to read. I read it. I feel dumber. I read it and I went to the Rooty Hill RSL and threw my rent money on the poker machines. Then I called 'Today Tonight' and complained that the Rooty Hill RSL is to blame for me being kicked out of my house. Then I found I had 9 kids and we had to move out onto the street. That's what Gus Gould can do to your state of mind. Anyway, I like Todd Carney****, described by Gould as 'too loose.' You should know.
*** NSW selectors don't watch Canberra games, see Tongue, Alan.
Props: Shane Webcke, the only Bronco that I ever liked made me realise one thing about Props in origin. Big, slow ones do not work at this level. Sorry Mark O' Meley. Sorry Todd Payton. Luke Bailey and Willie Mason your starters as they are mobile enough to not get destroyed.
Backrow: Gallen, Bird and Hindmarsh. The Frank is good enough but a pig of a man.
Hooker: Farah. How can it not be Farah???
Bench: Another mobile prop... Luke Stuart anyone?? Heighington and Watmough and my Bolter for the last bench spot - Liam Fulton.
Why Liam Fulton?? Flexibility to play as a workhorse in the backrow, can be a subsitute dummy half and cover some positions in the outside backs. Having a Kurt Gidley instead shows little confidence in Carney as your playmaker and that may not be the best idea...