State of Origin is a fortnight away and as always I’m looking forward to it. But this year especially because I think if NSW can pick the best team, they can really give them a challenge now.
Especially because Matt Scott’s out, Johnathan Thurston’s out – Queensland’s missing three or four people from their squad.
We’ll take a good look at who might be selected for Origin on this week’s Over The Black Dot.
But if there’s any time to beat Queensland, it’s this year. Then again you can’t really underestimate Queensland because they’ve got so many great players they can choose from.
I think this year’s series is going to be one of the best. I actually think it’ll be one of the best.
"From the word go till the bell, there’s gonna be tries scored, breaks done and you’re gonna see players do things that they’ve never done before."
Looking at the NRL this year and some of the high-quality games that we’ve been seeing, it’s producing some more superstars and a lot of them will get an opportunity this year to shine in Origin.
Anthony Milford might get a run and Daly Cherry-Evans might come back into the play again – you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
State of Origin is special because I think it’s just become the pinnacle of rugby league at the moment. There’s so much hype based around it, especially with all the success Queensland have got. It’s now a new challenge for NSW to try and pick the right team to try and match them.
But I think it’s a different level of football. It’s fast; everything’s bigger, faster and stronger. There’s a lot more skill there and you get to see the best players in the world go head-to-head.
I know that there’s a big ask for a lot of these players to play week-in and week-out and when they play a long NRL season, then they’ve got to play the Test matches and then they play other games like City-Country and All Stars and they play the Origin – it’s a lot to ask of them. I think a lot of them play well over 30-35 games in the one season and that’s a lot on someone’s body playing a contact sport.
And Origin’s one of those things where people just grow another leg and they just shine. They come out and become superstars and they become the best players in the world.
That’s the beauty about Origin because it’s not only shown here in Australia but it’s all around the world. It’s got such a big following because of the excitement that it brings.
And expect more of that this year.
One player who could set the series alight is if Jarryd Hayne gets a run in the centres for NSW.
Even though his form at NRL level’s not been that good, if you’re looking at x-factor, he is the x-factor.
He’s done it before. He’s won games for the Blues before while he’s been on the wing or at fullback. I think if Jarryd Hayne gets a run, expect the unexpected.
In terms of Indigenous players, I think James Roberts from the Brisbane Broncos should definitely get a look in. If they’re looking on performance, then give the kid a shot.
He’ll bring speed, he’ll bring excitement, he’ll bring extra flare and attack. He’ll keep you on the edge of your seat because of having world-class players inside and outside of him and giving him clean ball.
He’s creating hundred metres tries and gaps for himself at Broncos level - imagine what he can do at an Origin level.
"Once again rugby league is taking the forefront of that and taking leadership and ownership and really supporting the Aboriginal people of Australia."
I think James Roberts is a great defender, he’s a solid ball runner, he’s got plenty of speed. I think he deserves an opportunity, a shot at proving himself.
It’s those players in Origin that just take this opportunity to play in front of the fans and make the best of it.
Steve Renouf was one of my favourites for Queensland and then for NSW, probably pretty recently Timana Tahu.
Renouf was a centre and I was a centre; I was a big fan of his and I tried to base my game around his when I was a young fella.
And then for what he did for the game of rugby league back then – he used to score hundred metre tries and do freakish things and I used to love that about him.
When Origin starts this year, what we’ll get to see and appreciate is the high-quality rugby league for 80 minutes. From the word go till the bell, there’s gonna be tries scored, breaks done and you’re gonna see players do things that they’ve never done before.
I remember when Billy Slater first came on the scene, no one knew who this kid was and he did a chip and chase and scored at Lang Park. No one knew of him back then but that’s what Origin does; it brings the best out of people and you can turn into a superstar overnight.
While the focus starts to turn to State of Origin, we shouldn’t forget the NRL.
I think the Indigenous Round on the weekend was great. The whole 16 teams all had an Indigenous jumper and it was great to see the New Zealand Warriors even have an Indigenous jumper because they’re a cultural team with the Maori culture over there.
Once again rugby league is taking the forefront of that and taking leadership and ownership and really supporting the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Tune in to Over The Black Dot on NITV Wednesday from 9.30pm to hear who Owen Craigie would select in the Queensland State of Origin side and who George Rose would pick in the NSW team.