NRL action at Sunshine Coast Stadium between New Zealand Warriors and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Damien Cook.
NRL action at Sunshine Coast Stadium between New Zealand Warriors and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Damien Cook. John McCutcheon

Can't wait for Origin this year


ON PAPER there is no reason for it, but I have a growing sense of unease ahead of State of Origin.

There is just something about Queenslanders with their backs to the wall.

The form of incumbent Blues' halves Nathan Cleary and James Maloney hasn't been great.

As a Blues fan, the thought of changing a winning team, after fighting for so long to win a series, isn't great, but it's hard to ignore the form of a few blokes in particular.

Cody Walker has been lighting the competition up and Luke Keary has been the form half of the season for mine.

I'd struggle to leave Keary out of a starting spot, but I'm a massive fan of Jimmy Maloney.

Adam Reynolds has been excellent for the Rabbitohs too and the prospect of reuniting premiership winners Reynolds and Keary could be tempting.

But we shouldn't ignore the power of loyalty.

For so many years we've seen Queensland selectors pick and stick, rewarding incumbents who'd been there and done it.

And how many times have we seen it pay dividends.

Guys who weren't in electric form head into Maroons camp and surprise, went on to carve us up.

Many people are saying the Maroons are out of it, through sheer lack of depth, but I don't reckon things are as grim as some are making out.

Benny Hunt is a solid option at hooker and Josh McGuire can pinch hit in there if there are concerns about Hunt lasting 80 minutes.

McGuire's been playing the house down for the Cowboys.

Looking at Gordon Tallis' preferred side, it's pretty strong.

Josh Papalii has been outstanding for the Raiders and Dylan Napa was starting to play some good footy before he got injured.

You know what you get with Jai Arrow, relentless effort.

If fit, I like Daly Cherry-Evans at halfback and Cam Munster in the six jersey.

Having Michael Morgan in the centres and Kalyn Ponga at fullback gives them plenty of creativity and strike power in the backs.

Many might be writing Queensland off, but I think it might be premature.

That's a solid team which I wouldn't expect to roll over.

The Blues are looking pretty strong, which is a good feeling.

James Tedesco has been in ridiculous form this year and I'm interested to see whether they'll take a punt and put Payne Haas in the 17 at only 20 years of age.

He has a huge engine and has been very good so far this year, so he could be a real handful.

But without doubt the player I'm most excited about is Damien Cook.

He is an absolute star.

Lightning out of dummy half and now displaying more and more of his passing and kicking game.

He is the key for us New South Welshmen this year I reckon.

If the Blues' pack gets momentum he is going to run absolute riot.

I can't wait.