The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Newcastle are poised to become big movers in the player market with coach Brian Smith to oversee a major shake-up of their roster and playing methods.
With local product Clint Newton having joined Melbourne a day after being released by the Knights, Newcastle football operations manager Steve Crowe has declared a looming recruitment drive. The Knights have a host of players coming off contract at the end of the season including regular first graders Josh Perry, Adam Woolnough, George Carmont, Brad Tighe and Daniel Abraham.
The impending departure of so many big names plus the recent retirement of Andrew Johns has left the Knights with plenty of room under their salary cap for next season. Newcastle are believed to be close to securing St George Illawarra prop Jason Ryles while the extra funds could also leave them in contention for the likes of off contract Test centre Brent Tate.
Brown has dumped regular half Mathew Head to Premier League and handed Soward the number seven jumper less than 24 hours after the 22-year-old playmaker gained a release from the Sydney Roosters. Soward now has the monumental task of lifting the Dragons out of a slump which has them mired in second last place on the ladder, his first assignment being against the defending premiers at Oki Jubilee Stadium.
Soward will form a new-look halves combination at the Dragons alongside five-eighth Rangi Chase.
Onto Origin, and NSW coach Graham Murray will give his Blues forwards a visual reminder of their Origin one capitulation in a bid to avoid an encore performance in game two.
Part of Murray's pre-match routine for Origin II on June 3 will incorporate a highlights package showing Queensland's hitmen, most notably backrower Tonie Carroll, monstering their NSW counterparts. Murray hopes the move will have the Blues pack fired up for the rematch.
NSW need to win the second game to keep the series alive heading into game three in Brisbane.