Relive Hoops’ blog below.
The NSW Blues are in a state of flux as a combination of form, injuries and eligibility arguments dominate the headlines leading up to the all-important Origin II team announcements on Sunday.
The Blues are set to head in a different direction in terms of backrowers Tariq Sims and Ryan Matterson depending on form while on the injury front the availability of Latrell Mitchell has also become a major storyline.
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The South Sydney Rabbitohs – after spending $70,0000 to send Mitchell to the United States for a specialist rehabilitation program – are putting all kinds of pressure on the Blues to refrain from selecting Mitchell for Origin II in Perth.
Mitchell was back in practice at Redfern Oval on Monday, but after a week off with COVID, he was far from the destructive game-breaker that dominated last year’s State of Origin series.
Can the Blues afford to take the risk of picking Mitchell when they’ve just returned from COVID and a two-and-a-half-month injury layoff?
What will determine Mitchell’s availability will be whatever transpires from a conversation between the South Sydney star and Blues manager Brad Fittler.
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The next pickle for the Blues revolves around the soon-to-be-announced Tonga squad for the test match against New Zealand with Daniel Tupou, Kotoni Staggs and Haumole Olakau’atu Olakau’atu all seen as near-guaranteed selections for Tonga .
This then means that in the case of Tupou and Staggs, they are going to have a big decision to make in terms of who they are going to represent.
The other selection surprise that the Blues are meant to be very entertaining is the inclusion of 18-year-old sensation Joseph Suaalii in the NSW 17.
The Roosters young gun was part of the extended squad last time out but his NRL form has been nothing short of irresistible and he is believed to be firmly in the frame to make the squad.
Fellow Rooster Angus Crichton is also back on the radar after a strong performance against the Melbourne Storm and the same goes for Bulldogs outfielder Josh Addo-Carr who has scored five tries in two games since his omission from Origin I. .
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The Blues were 1-zero in the series previously under Fittler and found the answers to come back and win the series, but this time around the task seems an even more monumental challenge.
The immediate objective will be to select the right side to try to win Origin II in Perth.
In the NRL, how bad were Parramatta’s Eels on Monday?
I sincerely believed this was the best chance the blue and gold list had of ending a premiership drought dating back to 1986.
Victories over Melbourne in Melbourne and Penrith in Penrith only further underscored their credentials.
But having 34 points put on them by a Bulldogs team that had only won two games all season calls for a major reassessment.
Of course, the big end-of-season games are still three months away, but the way the Eels simply didn’t show up for the races against Canterbury-Bankstown shows there’s mental frailty in the roster.
Who do you think the Blues should pick for Origin II?
And what did you think of the Bulldogs’ exceptional victory over their great rival Parramatta?
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