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State of Origin II - Player by
The fallout from one of the toughest Origins in recent memory has seen Queensland reshuffle their line-up into a tougher outfit for Origin II.
Tonie Carroll moves to the centres from lock following the season ending injury to the talented Justin Hodges. This will slow down the backline but increase the size. Carroll won't let them down though, as he's played most of his club football in the centres this year. The irrepressible Steven Price comes into the starting line-up, forcing Petero Civoniceva to the second row. Travis Norton locks the scrum, which should make up some extra mobility and creativity on the fringe of the ruck.
Debutant Michael Crocker could have a baptism of fire, with an injury cloud around Darren Lockyer's ankle meaning he might pick up the goal-kicking duties. Either way, he's an aggrssive customer who'll need to be watched. Likewise with Scott Sattler and Matt Bowen who will add some much needed spark to the Maroon's line-up.
By contrast, NSW have made only one change, forced by suspension. Bryan Fletcher gets a recall following Josh Perry being rubbed out for a week. Perry had a bit of a whinge over the verdict, but from where most people were sitting, he was lucky not to get a longer stint on the sidelines after being placed on report twice during Newcastle's match against St George Illawarra. One was particularly nasty, elbowing Lance Thompson in the back of the head in a cowardly act when Thompson was on all-fours recovering the ball.
Origin II should be a highly entertaining game with Queensland desperate to level the series, setting in motion a tie-breaker at home. But NSW, and in particular Andrew Johns, will be out to prove a point by wrapping up the series in Sydney.
Here is my Player by Player analysis for Wednesday night's second Rugby League State of Origin Clash at Telstra Stadium.
NEW SOUTH WALES
1. Anthony Minichiello (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 82kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. Made a brilliant Origin debut in game one, overcoming a nervous start to threaten every time he touched the ball. Queensland needs to put more pressure on him.
2. Timana Tahu (Newcastle) Age: 22 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 92kg Origins: 4 Tests: 2. Continued his mid-season form revival in Origin I. Didn't see the best of his partnership with Newcastle teammate Matthew Gidley in the opening game.
3. Matthew Gidley (Newcastle) Age: 25 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 95kg Origins: 6 Tests: 10. Was quiet in Origin I but did a good job on Brent Tate. Another solid display is all NSW asks.
4. Jamie Lyon (Parramatta) Age: 21 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 3 Tests: 4. Edging back to his best after missing a chunk of last season with injury. Lyon will look to use his speed to get on the outside of Carroll.
5. Michael DeVere (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 96kg Origins: 2 Tests: 0. Was his usual solid self in Origin I. Never looked out of place on the wing, made some good breaks and showed his toughness when he had his head stapled on the sidelines.
6. Shaun Timmins (St George Illawarra) Age: 26 Hgt: 184cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 5 Tests: 4. Went close to man of the match honours despite playing out of position at five-eighth. Was one of only a handful of players who didn't miss a tackle in the frenetic Origin opener, at times in scrambling situations.
7. Andrew Johns (capt, Newcastle) Age: 29 Hgt: 179cm Wgt: 89kg Origins: 19 Tests: 17. Johns was back to his devastating best in Origin I when he showed Queensland all his tricks. Has reportedly been carrying a calf injury but is ready to dominate again, with ominous signs for Queensland that he can improve significantly.
8. Robbie Kearns (Melbourne) Age: 31 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 6 Tests: 10. Did everything that was asked of him in Origin I. Wiley veteran who leads the NSW pack, and is nominated as forwards captain.
9. Danny Buderus (Newcastle) Age: 25 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 91kg Origins: 4 Tests: 7. Played well in Origin I with his tidy work out of dummy half and commitment to getting his hands dirty. His service to Johns was good, but left most of the running out of dummy half to Wing.
10. Jason Ryles (St George Illawarra) Age: 24 Hgt: 194cm Wgt: 113kg Origins: 2 Tests: 4. Ryles hurt his shoulder early in Origin I but played on. Claims he still has something to prove in Origin and wants to make a bigger impact in Game II and will need a big game to counter Queensland's pack who will look to improve substantially.
11. Craig Fitzgibbon (Sydney Roosters) Age: 26 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 97kg Origins: 1 Tests: 1. Has been under an injury cloud after suffering an eye injury in club football. Worked the house down in Origin I in an impressive debut.
12. Ben Kennedy (Newcastle) Age: 29 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 103kg Origins: 8 Tests: 4. Didn't have the impact everyone expected in Origin I after an injury-plagued preparation. Expect more from him on Wednesday.
13. Luke Ricketson (Sydney Roosters) Age: 30 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 102kg Origins: 8 Tests: 0. Made an unbelievable 51 tackles in the opening game in a unsung performance which highlighted why he's a Phil Gould favourite. Never stops.
14. Luke Bailey (St George Illawarra) Age: 23 Hgt: 189cm Wgt: 108kg Origins: 4 Tests: 0. Was a contentious decision for man of the match in the opening game, but not undeserving. Must be pushing for a starting berth. One of the fittest front rowers in the game.
15. Craig Wing (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 1 Tests: 1. Lived up to his reputation as a gamebreaker in Origin I with a devastating performance off the bench. Scored a try and terrorised Queensland.
16. Bryan Fletcher (South Sydney) Age: 29 Hgt: 190cm Wgt: 105kg Origins: 12 Tests: 7. Won a return to Origin when Josh Perry was ruled out through suspension. Has been there and done that and knows what to expect. Good club form has been overlooked as Souths struggle.
17. Phil Bailey (Cronulla Sharks) Age: 23 Hgt: 188cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. Made a low-key start to his Origin career, but didn't look out of place. Will want to have a bigger impact in Game II.
Coach: Phil Gould Origin record: 11 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw. Series wins: 4 - 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996. Has been concerned by his side's poor preparation for Game II, but few doubt his ability to get the best out of the Blues. Has already won four series and took a giant step towards a fifth with victory at Suncorp Stadium. Likely to be his last series so desperate to go out a winner. Master of the mind games.
1. Darren Lockyer (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 14 Tests: 16. Was the Maroons best player in Origin I despite carrying an ankle injury into the game. Made a sensational tackle on De Vere and scored a great solo try amongst other flashes of brilliance. Queensland needs a big game from him again.
2. Shannon Hegarty (Sydney Roosters) Age: 24 Hgt: 184cm Wgt: 87kg Origins: 1 Tests: 0. Made a solid Origin debut. One of the few Queensland players who looked consistently dangerous with the ball in his hand and should be better second time around.
3. Brent Tate (Brisbane) Age: 21 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 89kg Origins: 2 Tests: 2. Didn't see the best of Tate in Game I. Has all the attributes of a quality centre - speed, a swerve and strength.
4. Tonie Carroll (Brisbane) Age: 27 Hgt: 186cm Wgt: 103kg Origins: 9 Tests: 5. Back in the centres where he made his named with Brisbane. Should be a handful in attack but NSW will look to exploit his lack of pace.
5. Matt Sing (North Queensland Cowboys) Age: 28 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 86kg Origins: 16 Tests: 4. Was solid on his return to Origin but will want to make more of an impact in Sydney. Has to be watched out of dummy half.
6. Ben Ikin (Brisbane) Age: 26 Hgt: 185cm Wgt: 96kg Origins: 15 Tests: 2. Copped some criticism for his performance in Origin I but will again be an important player for the Maroons. Needs to fire.
7. Shaun Berrigan (Brisbane) Age: 24 Hgt: 178cm Wgt: 87kg Origins: 4 Tests: 0. Berrigan admitted he lacked impact in game one and wants to make up for that on Wednesday night. Is likely to spend some time at dummy half in Game II with the injury to Marsh.
8. Shane Webcke (Brisbane) Age: 28 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 112kg Origins: 16 Tests: 8. Missed a startling 10 tackles in the Origin opener. You won't see that again. Expect Webcke to bounce back - and in a big way.
9. Michael Crocker (Sydney Roosters) Age: 23 Hgt: 187cm Wgt: 100kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. Aggressive player who sails close to the wind but should add something to the Maroons in defence. Could also take goal kicks if Lockyer's ankle doesn't hold up.
10. Steven Price (Bulldogs) Age: 29 Hgt: 193cm Wgt: 101kg Origins: 11 Tests: 3. Finally gets a chance to start an Origin match after playing 11 from the interchange bench. Has a motor that never stops. About time he was recognised for his service.
11. Petero Civoniceva (Brisbane) Age: 27 Hgt: 193cm Wgt: 110kg Origins: 6 Tests: 5. Continued his form revival with a good performance in Game I. His move to the second row gives the Maroons more size.
12. Gorden Tallis (Captain, Brisbane) Age: 29 Hgt: 189cm Wgt: 104kg Origins: 15 Tests: 7. Was at his intimidating best in the second half of Origin I, when he scored a try and tormented the Blues. Will be bent on levelling the series.
13. Travis Norton (Bulldogs) Age: 27 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 96kg Origins: 2 Tests: 0. Norton's recall gives Queensland another ball player, something they missed in Origin I. Will need to have an impact if the Maroons are to level the series.
14. Dane Carlaw (Brisbane) Age: 23 Hgt: 192cm Wgt: 107kg Origins: 6 Tests: 5. Started game one in the second row but moved back to the bench to give the Maroons more punch. Can be devastating on his day.
15. Andrew Gee (Brisbane) Age: 33 Hgt: 183cm Wgt: 106kg Origins: 16 Tests: 0. The tough and uncompromising Gee came in for some criticism after the opening game, but he gives the Maroons a shot of aggression when he comes on.
16. Scott Sattler (Penrith) Age: 31 Hgt: 180cm Wgt: 95kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. May be 31, but is one of the fittest blokes in the game. Panthers coach John Lang says he's never seen Sattler tired. His form for Penrith demanded a call-up.
17. Matthew Bowen (North Queensland) Age: 21 Hgt: 175cm Wgt: 80kg Origins: 0 Tests: 0. Arguably the most explosive player in rugby league. Devastating in attack and can't be handled one-on-one. NSW will look to exploit him defensively.
Coach: Wayne Bennett Origin record: 10 wins, 9 losses, 1 draw. Series wins: 4 - 1987, 1988, 1998, 2001. Regarded as the best coach in the game and will need to show why to keep the series alive. Has coached Brisbane in more than 400 first grade games and won five premierships so he knows how to win. A man of few words, he commands utmost loyalty from his players, invariably extracts the best from them and remains a confidant beyond their playing careers.