Youth a necessary gamble for Blues

IN CONTENTION: Dragons prop Paul Vaughan is making a strong case for an Origin debut this season. Picture: Sylvia Liber
IN CONTENTION: Dragons prop Paul Vaughan is making a strong case for an Origin debut this season. Picture: Sylvia Liber

PAUL Vaughan’s selection for Origin I is an absolute must for NSW.

The fact it is apparently unlikely is a fine illustration of the Blues inherent vice over the last decade – one series win out of 11 if anyone has forgotten.

It seems the only people who do seem to forget, over and over again, are Blues selectors who have made a habit of thinking themselves into a corner.

Origin is a strange beast. Players seemingly destined for it find it too much while others, who seem lucky to set foot on that stage, thrive. The fact is you just never know. 

They’re the two sides of a coin coach Laurie Daley does not want to have to flip too many times on one night – particularly in a game one at Suncorp Stadium.

On it’s own merits, pick-and-stick is not an entirely flawed concept. Coaches will show disloyalty for form or ignore form out of loyalty, one being the justification of the other.

However, recent history shows that gambles on youth have paid off. Vaughan’s Dragons teammate Tyson Frizell floated around the edge of selection for a number of seasons with Daley questioning whether he was ready for Origin.

Was he ready? He was NSW’s best player in the two games he played last season after being overlooked for game one (and several games in years before that).

The performances of James Tedesco and Wade Graham in Origin III last season, and Jack Bird’s performance across the three games, shows there is something to be said for – borderline arrogant – young bulls who aren’t carrying the baggage of past defeats. 

A pick and stick policy has been a no-brainer for Queensland. They’ve won 10 of the last 11 series anchored by five players chasing immortals status, but they have shown a willingness to go all-in in the past.

In game one of the 2001 series, the Maroons named 10 debutants that shocked NSW 34-16 – the game where Carl Webb skittled six defenders for a crucial try on halftime.

In game one 2004, they threw a former track work jockey named Billy Slater on the wing. The following season they put in a skinny Canterbury discard named Jonathan Thurston.

Sure, it’s hindsight that tells us how that turned out, but back then? Well… ya just didn’t know.

In reality, there are only be a mere handful of players who should be considered walk-up starts for the Blues. With a typical 17 normally featuring six middle forwards, there certainly aren’t enough of those to keep the form front-rower of the competition out.

Vaughan’s individual performance against Cronulla last week was among the best Kickoff has witnessed from a front-rower. It was not a fluke, he’s sitting second in Dally M Voting.

He should be there for game one. If he’s not, we’ll know whether NSW are going all-in on the nose, or each-way as the second-place tickets pile up.


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