Michael Maguire drops NSW selection surprise on eve of State of Origin Game 1

Michael Maguire drops NSW selection surprise on eve of State of Origin Game 1
  • PublishedJune 4, 2024

NSW coach Michael Maguire says he will not swing any late changes to his team, explaining Matt Burton will remain 18th man and won’t play in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Blues will be desperate to start the series and a new era with a win in Sydney at Accor Stadium on Wednesday night, following an injury riddled lead-up.

Maguire has backed Nicho Hynes to perform at halfback after the Sharks star recovered from a calf injury and impressed in camp.

James Tedesco will play his 23rd consecutive Origin game, returning to the team days after he was dropped, due to Dylan Edwards’ quad injury in training that cruelled his hopes of a NSW debut.

The Blues named four forwards on the bench — Isaah Yeo, Spencer Leniu, Hudson Young and Haumole Olakau’atu.

Many including NSW great Laurie Daley believed coach Maguire would pull a late switch and bring Bulldogs five-eighth Burton onto the bench and drop either Young or Olakau’atu.

The Blues would be left particularly exposed should an injury happen to halfback Nicho Hynes or five-eighth Jarome Luai.

Matt Burton is NSW’s 18th man. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Matt Burton is NSW’s 18th man. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Asked if Burton would make his way into the team, Maguire said on Tuesday: “He’s 18th man.

“I’m really confident with the 17 I’ve got. We’ve got a really good plan and we’re practising well.”

Told that Billy Slater was expecting Burton to be named on NSW’s bench, Maguire shut any speculation down.

“I’ve got 17 guys lining up and they’re ready to go,” he said.

“We’ve got all the combos sorted out really well through the week and obviously there’s a connection with a few of the players that I’ve coached over time and I know what they’re capable of doing so we need to have some subtle adjustments for what a game can bring so we’re ready for it.

“I’m confident in the team I’ve got and that’s the way we’re going.”

Maguire appears supremely confident in Hynes’ ability to play the full 80 minutes.

NRL: Billy Slater was asked back-to-back questions on the Selwyn Cobbo selection, making the Maroons boss a little prickly.

Blues icon Daley said on radio last week: “Surely, I think they may make a late switch. I think Matt Burton comes into the 17.”

Daley went on to say: “It’s a gamble going in without that utility player. I get where you’re coming from. If you look at the team, and I like the team, but you try to cover for every scenario that may happen and I would just feel more comfortable with one of those, either Olakau’atu or Hudson Young, being 18th man and Burton in the 17.”

Michael Maguire ruled out picking the Bulldogs utility. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Michael Maguire ruled out picking the Bulldogs utility. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

While Cronulla workhorse Cameron McInnes can fill in with some spot minutes at dummy-half, Maguire’s faith in his four-forward bench could see the Blues exposed if one of their halves gets injured.

There were farcical scenes last year when Hynes was named on the bench in the No. 14 jersey but played only 10 minutes at the end of Game 1 in the centres before getting dropped.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Slater refused to rule out making late changes to his Queensland side.

There is much fascination in the two team’s contrasting approaches to their interchange, with the Maroons naming two backs (Harry Grant and Selwyn Cobbo) and two forwards (J’Maine Hopgood and Moeaki Fotuaika.

“We’ve still got a little bit of time to go but we’ll make that decision closer to kick off,” a coy Slater said.

“We’ve got until an hour before kick off before the team goes in and that’s when it’ll be final.

“I know I’ve spent more time watching our Queenslanders than any other person.”

Queensland legend Paul Vautin didn’t agree with Cobbo being picked on the bench, arguing for 18th man Felise Kaufusi to be brought into the team.

“I’m not happy with the bench. I don’t understand why we’ve picked a winger-centre on the bench. I think we’re lacking another big forward,” Vautin told 4BC Radio.

“I don’t know who’s around, but one that comes to mind is Corey Jensen (Broncos prop). Felise Kaufusi is number 18 and I would have had him on the bench rather than Selwyn.

“I’m not a selector, I’m never going to be a selector but I’m also entitled to my own opinion. Forwards win Origin games. They do all the hard work.”

This season the NRL has witnessed countless games where teams fall apart and lose when a backline player goes down with injury early and it appears Slater wants to avoid that scenario.

“I just don’t know how they’re going to get Selwyn into the game barring an injury, which we don’t want,” Vautin added.

What is Billy Slater cooking up for Game 1? (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

What is Billy Slater cooking up for Game 1? (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

“It’s a bit like NSW last year, they picked Nicho Hynes on the bench as a utility (in Game One).

“He’s a guy who played fullback and halfback and they put him on with 10 minutes to go in the centres. It looked like he didn’t even know where the centres were.

“We ran around him, scored a try and he got hammered for that, and so did ‘Freddy’ (Brad Fittler).

“The same could happen to Selwyn. I know he’s a big body but I think we’re one forward short on the bench.”

Slater said on Tuesday: “Selwyn’s been great. He’s really matured over the last couple of years. He’s a wonderful player. He can play a number of positions. At the end of the day you just want Selwyn Cobbo out on the field.”

SOURCE: NEWS.COM

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