Saturday 24 March 2018 / 12:02 AM

Origin contenders gear up for RD16 audition

Further injury- and suspension-enforced withdrawals leave Queensland and New South Wales in need of at least two new players each ahead of the Origin III dead-rubber at Suncorp Stadium on July 9. With only one truncated round of NRL matches left to impress the selectors, we run the rule over the debutants in line for a maiden call-up and the rep veterans gunning for an Origin recall.




Brent Tate’s devastating, season-ending knee injury has opened up the right-wing spot for one of several uncapped contenders.

Dale Copley: The Brisbane three-quarter has emerged as a front-runner, aided by his 11 tries in 14 games and combination play with Justin Hodges on the Broncos’ right side. It would cap a remarkable comeback for Copley, who missed all of 2013 through injury.

Daniel Vidot: Another Broncos wing contender, Vidot’s position on the left flank does not aid his cause, but his size and work-rate certainly has the Emerging Origin squad member in the frame.

Will Chambers: Chambers’ was the first name that popped up when it became apparent Tate would not be playing in Brisbane; he was 18th man for the first two clashes. But he has played just two NRL games on the wing – way back in 2007 – which may work against him in the selection room.

Willie Tonga: Clearly still in Mal Meninga’s thoughts after being called into the Maroons’ extended game two squad, Tonga has never played on the wing in first grade but was selected on the flank for the 2009 Origin dead-rubber.

Dane Gagai: Both the Newcastle centre himself and his coach Wayne Bennett have acknowledged Gagai will not be considered this year after an indiscretion in the Emerging Origin camp – a pity, as Gagai has some top-line experience on the wing and great finishing instincts.

Queensland needs a new front-rower following the fractured cheekbone suffered by engine-room anchor Matt Scott in Sydney. Jacob Lillyman is a strong chance of securing his first Origin start after coming off the bench in game two, but another prop will be required in the 17.

Josh McGuire: The energetic Broncos prop has been knocking on the door for several seasons and appears to have the most support to nab a place in the team.

Brenton Lawrence: Perhaps more deserving than McGuire after playing such a key role in Manly’s drive to last year’s Grand Final, but at 29 his age may count against him.

David Shillington: Has returned to his rep standard form recently after a couple of ordinary years, but is unlikely to receive a recall at 31 and with Queensland looking to future series.

Ben Hannant: In the same boat as Shillington: could certainly do the job, but is likely to miss out because he doesn’t fit into future plans.

Korbin Sims: A real roughie, but the youngest Sims brother (and Queensland eligible, unlike Ashton and Tariq) shapes as a future Origin prospect after an outstanding season to date in a struggling Newcastle side.


The dead-rubber is an ideal opportunity for Meninga to blood one of his young utility types off the bench, rather than carry four interchange forwards – particularly when Chris McQueen, Ben Te’o and David Taylor are in such questionable form. Matt Gillett and Corey Parker are also no certainties to recover in time for game three.

Ben Hunt: One of the NRL’s form players, Hunt was on the cusp of a debut in game two. And with a long tenure as an interchange dummy-half under his belt, he boasts the requisite versatility.

Anthony Milford: Another included in the Maroons’ extended game two squad, the teenage superstar could play a similar role to the one Matt Bowen excelled in from 2003-07.

Jake Friend: Cameron Smith’s heir apparent was 19th man for the series opener, while he has the size to cover the backrow as well as hooker.





Centre stalwart Michael Jennings has been ruled out with a back injury so game two winger Will Hopoate could be shifted to Jennings’ spot, or another specialist centre could be drafted in.


Josh Mansour: Deserved a game two spot on form, but probably missed out due to inexperience and the enormity of the occasion. The blockbusting Penrith winger would be a deserving selection.

Tim Lafai: A genuine powerhouse who knows his way to the try-line and boasts plenty of ball-playing skill, Lafai has the makings of a long-term Blues centre.

James McManus: Strongly considered for his third NSW jumper ahead of game two, the steady McManus would have to be considered only an outside chance with the series already wrapped up.

Jack Wighton: Highly-rated by many in the game – including Blues coach Laurie Daley – and an undeniable talent, the 21-year-old Canberra centre has already played twice for Country.

Jorge Taufua: Well in the running for a wing spot ahead of the series opener, Taufua seems to have slipped down the pecking order – but he still boasts the power and dynamic scoring ability to become an outstanding Origin winger.


The dangerous tackle suspension meted out to Anthony Watmough ensured at least one bench spot is up for grabs, while Trent Merrin has not been named by the Dragons this week and has to be in some doubt.

Tony Williams: The logical choice to come back into the Blues’ 17 after being the unlucky player to make way for Greg Bird’s return.

Boyd Cordner: An incumbent Test forward, Cordner has been named this weekend for the Roosters, coming back from an injury that ruled him out of the opening two matches. He would be a big part of Daley’s future plans and a call-up for his second Origin guernsey would not surprise.

Josh Jackson: The tireless Bulldogs backrower is seemingly on the cusp of taking the next step. He can handle it – he just needs an opportunity.

Wade Graham: Tough, creative and versatile, Graham boasts tremendous leadership qualities and is still only 23. Appeared a custom-made replacement for Bird ahead of game one.

Tyrone Peachey: One of the season’s breakout stars, Peachey is the kind of interchange shock weapon that could bust a tight game wide open. Probably too early in his career just now, but a NSW call-up seems inevitable.

Dale Finucane: Behind club-mate Jackson in the pecking order, but Finucane has all the right attributes to make it in the rep arena.

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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