James Tedesco set for NSW State of Origin call-up, shifting Josh Dugan to wing
April 1, 2016 - 5:53PM
Brad Walter - SMH
Josh Dugan is almost guaranteed to be in the NSW team for this year’s Origin series but possibly not in the No.1 jersey, with Blues coach Laurie Daley believed to be leaning towards a ball-playing fullback such as James Tedesco or Matt Moylan.
Dugan, who only returned to the fullback role for St George Illawarra two weeks ago, is arguably the number one No.1 in the NRL as he leads the statistic for tackle breaks (7.5) and is second only to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for run metres (243m) - averaging 53.5m more than he did last season.
However, Dugan only passes 5.5 times from his 29 possessions per match and Fairfax Media understands Daley wants a ball-player to increase the involvement of his centres and wings this season. With the likes of Michael Jennings, James Roberts, Josh Morris and Blake Ferguson vying for centre and wing berths, NSW will have plenty of strike out wide and the Blues want to take advantage against a Queensland backline which will be without the injured Billy Slater and is likely to feature a less than fully fit Greg Inglis.
According to statistics provided by Champion Data, Tedesco is averaging eight passes from 25.5 possessions per match for Wests Tigers this season and he is also the leading fullback in the NRL for tries (1.3 per match), try assists (0.8), line breaks (0.8, line breaks assists (0.8) and dummy half runs (1.8).
However, Daley will also take an interest in the form of Penrith captain Matt Moylan, who will make his first appearance of the season in Sunday’s clash with Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium. North Queensland’s Lachlan Coote may be another option as he is averaging 24.8 passes per game - more than double Inglis (10.3) and triple the next highest passing fullback - in a clear indication of why rival NRL are considering him as a five-eighth when he comes off contract at the end of the season.
With uncertainty over the Blues halves following last season’s series defeat, the suspension of Sydney Roosters playmaker Mitchell Pearce until three weeks before the first Origin team is chosen and the broken jaw that has sidelined South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds for six weeks, Daley is believed to be favouring a fullback who plays like a second five-eighth rather than a ball runner like Dugan.
If Daley goes that way, Dugan - the NSW player of the series last year - is likely to play right wing as he did for Australia in last season’s ANZAC Test against New Zealand in Brisbane and has previously done in Origin.
Besides the improvement in his passing game, Tedesco is running 20 metres more per match (166.7m) than last season but his kick return metres (53m) are almost identical, indicating he is more involved in general play.
Tedesco is the fullback with the most improved statistics in the NRL after Cronulla’s Ben Barba, who is averaging 59.6 more metres from all runs per game this season, although he played most of 2015 in a utility role for the Sharks. Barba and Tedesco will go head to head in Saturday’s match between the Sharks and Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.
In contrast, Inglis’s statistics are down across most attacking categories, including possessions (5.2 less per game), tackle breaks (1.9 less), line breaks (0.2 less), line break assists (0.3 less), passes (4.3 less) and dummy half runs (0.2). Inglis is making more tackles (7.8 per game) and missing less (0.5 per game), while he is running 5.6 more metres that the 138.4 metres he averaged per match last season, including an additional 12.4 metres from kick returns.
The Rabbitohs captain has been hampered by a knee injury for several seasons and underwent surgery late last year in a bid to play in the finals but is still appears to be effected by the problem. The injury has raised concerns over the impact that the fullback role could have on the length of his career as Inglis is often required to run the ball into a wall of defenders.
Inglis was brave if not brilliant in Thursday night’s 16-12 win over Manly as he was forced to make some tough carries off his own line to help out the Souths forward and came up with repeated try saving tackles as the Sea Eagles spent much of the second half in their opposition’s end of the field. However, commentators noted that Inglis “doesn’t look right” several times during the commentary and he has admitted that the knee problem is set to trouble him for the rest of his career.