Matt Moylan or James Tedesco for NSW fullback in State of Origin II? The one who played in Origin I or the one who almost certainly would have played had he not been injured at the worst possible time? It’s the latter, Tedesco, for mine.
Moylan made a reasonable debut for the Blues in their 6-4 loss to Queensland, but didn’t do enough to put a mortgage on the position for game two. He did some good things and made some mistakes.
Tedesco has picked up where he left off for Wests Tigers in his two games since returning from injury. His running game has been excellent.
Moylan played a starring role for Penrith in their come-from-way-back win over Manly on Sunday, but right now Tedesco is the best option for the No.1 jumper.
Some people will say going to Suncorp Stadium for a must-win Game 2 is not the right time to be blooding a player in a key position, but there are no strict, go-by-the-book directions on this sort of thing.
The way I look at it, if it’s the right player it’s the right time.
I look forward to the day when Tedesco and Moylan are both in the NSW squad. This probably won’t be that day, although if Tedesco was named at fullback then Moylan would make more sense as a reserve than the choice of Dylan Walker did for Game 1.
Moylan has both the playmaking skills and supporting ability to be able to make something happen or capitalise on a teammate’s good work if he was sent on to play the sort of roving role Craig Wing used to fill for NSW.
Phil Gould used to leave his spine players on and send Wing into the fray as a replacement for a back-rower with the brief to position himself around the ball. Wing was so good off the bench he was typecast, playing all of his 12 Origin games as a reserve.
Tedesco is more robust than Moylan and runs the ball back better from fullback. Hopefully, one day, Moylan will be playing at five-eighth for Penrith and filling the same position for the Blues, with Tedesco at the back.
I’d like to see Bryce Cartwright in the squad for Origin II as well, although it’s hard to find a way to fit both him and Moylan in the 17-man squad if my preferred fullback is Tedesco.
Particularly if Wade Graham is going to get the starting spot in the second-row that has been vacated because of the injury to Boyd Cordner.
Graham would be a great choice. NSW will need skill at least as much as power on the faster Suncorp Stadium pitch on June 22 and Graham brings that.
I’d like to see Peter Wallace as hooker instead of Robbie Farah as well, but I know I’m stretching it now in terms of selection picks possibly coming true.
So much hinges on the result of this game, particularly for Blues coach Laurie Daley.
He is contracted until the end of next year’s series and it has been suggested that if NSW don’t win the current series he will still be safe to see that contract out, but history suggests another series loss would at least put him at risk of being sacked.
That would make it three losing series in four years as coach and surely Daley himself would accept that another series defeat would leave him having to answer some very difficult questions.
Before Daley, Craig Bellamy was the only NSW coach to lose two series and survive. The Blues went down in 2008 and ’09 under Bellamy and he was reappointed for 2010. They lost again and that was it for him.
Daley came in at a low ebb for NSW. They had lost seven series in a row, from 2006-12. The Blues were very competitive in 2013, losing the series-deciding Game 3 12-10, and then won that 2014 series.
Last year, it was one-all going into Game 3, and then that 52-6 flogging by the Maroons in the decider seemingly came out of nowhere.
That made it two losing series out of three for Daley, but his job wasn’t threatened and that was fair enough. He had won the middle series of the three, as opposed to losing two straight, and this was a champion Queensland side that had dominated the Blues for a long time.
But what happens if they lose another series? There is no scenario that can look good. Lose in Brisbane and it’s over in two. Winning in Brisbane would set up a decider back home in Sydney, in front of a full house, with expectations enormous. Lose it there? What a horrible thought.
Win the series from here? Well, that would be a whole different story, particularly considering the NSW history of mostly going down in flames in live games in Brisbane. Daley would be celebrated as a hero – rightly so, too.
But, right now, with NSW one-nil down in the series, surely nothing is certain beyond this year.
To be honest the thing that has given Queensland the most grief over the past few years has been a strong ball runner at the back. I rate Moylan highly, but when we have gone into games with players like Gidley at fullback (who play as a third halve in attach) we haven’t really asked a lot of questions of their defence. The Jarryd Haynes and Josh Dugans of the world have done some damage, so go with another player in the same mold (especially with Dugan unavailable for the rest of the series).