This weekend begins the rugby league rep season for the year and I must admit I'm not too excited. While there is still four games of footy this weekend none of the ANZAC Test, City v Country, Under 20's Origin or Samoa v Fiji interest me too much. I'm normally a fan of the mid year test but a horror run of injuries to the Kiwi's key attacking players has highlighted their lack of depth and seen them select a weakened team.
While it's debatable whether or not the City-Country match is a genuine Origin selection trial, looking at the two teams is interesting, especially in regards to one of this years talking points. That being, who is going to goal kick for NSW? Now this issue can't be taken lightly, NSW have lost by two points or less in the last two deciders, so a successful shot from the sideline could be the difference between winning and losing. Potential options include incumbent goal kicker James Maloney, Adam Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Todd Carney, Pat Richards and you can even throw Michael Gordon in as well. The problem is none of these players are demanding selection in their chosen positions.
Maloney has been down on form this year and went off with an injury last weekend so he may be out all together. Carney is another five-eight who has played origin before and is also suffering from similar problems to Maloney. Josh Reynolds is also playing superbly this year and almost demands selection in the number six jersey, only problem is he doesn't kick goals. John Sutton and Jarrod Mullen are also pushing for a place in the team but neither of them goal kick either.
That moves us on to the wingers and with Brett Morris having one wing position sewn up there is still another up for grabs. The obvious choice seems to be Jorge Taufua. His hard running to start off sets combined with his ability to bust tackles and score trys sees him as the perfect selection. But Richards and Gordon's ability to kick goals keeps them in the mix as well. There had been a lot of talk of Richards making his origin debut this year for that reason and his extremely long drop outs would provide another asset too. Despite this his name was missing from the city side when it was named on Sunday. Now I'm not sure if he was unavailable because of injury, ineligible due to his allegiance with Ireland or just not picked but it isn't a good sign for his potential origin selection.
The final position with goal kicking options is halfback but Mitchell Pearce seems to have a monopoly on the NSW number seven jersey. If selectors were to look at a halfback option outside of Pearce both Adam Reynolds and Hodkinson are established goal kickers. If I was to go out on a limb and pick a bolter for this years origin I'd go with Hodkinson, his form is good and he has proved he can get his team home in tight matches. The selectors don't seem to see eye to eye with me though as Trent was only selected on the bench for city and that was after Sezer pulled out with injury.
So do we still have goal kicking options if we opt for Josh Reynolds, Pearce and Taufua? I think we do. Greg Bird has been hitting them fairly well for the Titans when Sezer has been injured and we also have Gidley coming off the bench as a utility. I think the best option for New South Wales may be to go with this combination. Gidley, who has origin goal kicking experience, can take the majority of the kicks and Bird can fill in when Kurt is off the field. While it could be a risk I think the bigger risk would be to head to Suncorp without selecting our strongest seventeen.
My current NSW 17: Hayne, B Morris, J Morris, Jennings, Taufua, J Reynolds, Pearce, Tamou, Peats*, Gallen, Watmough, Cordner, Bird
Int: Gidley, Fifita, Woods, Merrin
* - assuming Robbie Farah is unavailable