Rugby League

Blues name six rookies, new captain for Origin opener

May 27, 2024 12:29 pm

[Source: NRL]

Sea Eagles forward Jake Trbojevic will captain a new-look Blues team in the June 5 series opener at Accor Stadium after NSW coach Michael Maguire named six debutants in his first Origin team, including Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards.

Edwards will make his Origin debut in place of long serving captain James Tedesco, who was among 11 players either overlooked or unavailable for selection from the Blues team that won the third game of last year’s series.

Other Origin rookies named in the NSW squad are:

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Roosters centre Joseph Suaali’i
Dragons winger Zac Lomax
Sharks lock Cameron McInnes
Sea Eagles second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu
Roosters prop Spencer Leniu

With Tedesco axed and Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary and South Sydney lock Cameron Murray sidelined by injury, Maguire has chosen Trbojevic as skipper and the 30-year-old will pit wits with Manly team-mate Daly Cherry-Evans – the Maroons captain.

Trbojevic is the first NSW skipper who does not regularly lead his club side in recent memory but with Panthers co-captain Isaah Yeo shifting to the bench and Cameron McInnes to start at lock, he was a logical choice.

The only other club captains in the NSW team are Canterbury’s Stephen Crichton and McInnes – neither of whom are established members of the Blues squad.

After making his NSW debut in 2017, Trbojevic has worn the Blues jersey 16 times and has played more Origins than any other member of the 20-man squad named by Maguire on Sunday night.

He will be a popular choice, as will Edwards, who has been unable to unseat Tedesco for the No.1 jersey in previous years despite starring in Penrith’s run of three premierships and winning the Clive Churchill Medal for player-of-the-match in last year’s grand final.

After making his Test debut in last year’s Pacific Championships, Edwards is the latest player to represent the Kangaroos before playing State of Origin.

Tedesco had featured in every game for the Blues since his debut in Game Three of the 2016 season, including the last 11 as captain after taking over the role from Boyd Cordner midway through the 2020 campaign.

Nicho Hynes has been named at halfback, alongside Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai, despite failing to finish in Cronulla’s heavy defeat to Penrith over the weekend.

Bulldogs playmaker Matt Burton, who played centre for the Blues in 2022, has been named as cover for Hynes as 18th man, with Roosters playmaker Luke Keary and Warriors forward Mitch Barnett also in the extended squad.

Hynes (calf) and Penrith second-rower Liam Martin (hamstring) underwent scans on Sunday before the squad was announced.

Cowboys hooker Reece Robson has edged out Wests Tigers captain Api Koroisau for the No.9 jersey after being part of Game Three last year when he came off the bench.

The Blues will spend the week in Katoomba in preparation for Game One before returning to Sydney for final preparations ahead of the series opener.