New South Wales captain James Tedesco will face a harsh truth in the 2024 season having admitted he will need to fight for his jersey in the Blues team after the announcement of new coach Michael Maguire. Tedesco was an automatic selection for Brad Fittler during his time as Blues coach with the fullback one of the best players in the game.
The fullback has played 22 times for the Blues, but his selection came under criticism in 2023 after a nightmare Game I saw the Blues. Tedesco was at the centre of a number of errors for the Blues and his form saw the critics call for a new fullback.
Fittler stuck it out with Tedesco, but the Blues went down in the series for a second year in a row. Mal Meninga came under similar criticism for selecting Tedesco for the Pacific Championship and the Kangaroos lost in the final, prompting similar backlash to the decision.
Fittler has since moved on from the Blues with Maguire confirmed as the new coach on Thursday. And coming with Maguire is a new background staff consisting of a number of former players. Maguire brings assistants Jon Cartwright, Matt King Brett White. While Melbourne Storm football manager Frank Ponissi will be the Blues' team performance manager.
And Tedesco admitted ahead of the official announcement that he would need to earn his spot again next year after the criticism laid on the Blues great. "It's always that every year. The best player in the competition should get the role," he said to Channel Nine. "It's not my position or anyone else position."
Tedesco admitted he needed a better start to the season to put himself in contention for the No.1 jersey. "I haven't started the year well for the Roosters for a while now," he added. This comes as Maguire admitted he would pick the team of in-form players for next year.
"I'm looking forward to just letting the players go out and play now. I’ll have discussions to be able to find ideas around what’s going to best work for NSW and the squad, but I’m also going to say to them 'go out and enjoy yourselves and play your best footy', and when the time’s right, we’ll have to pick a team," he said when unveiled as the Blues coach on Thursday.
Dylan Edwards pushing James Tedesco for Blues role
One player that could feel he is edging closer to a debut is Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards. The 2022 Clive Churchill medal winner has now won three straight premiership trophies having been a pivotal part of the Panthers' spine.
While injuries have curtailed his representative push, Melbourne Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen will also be keen to make a run when he returns from a fractured ankle. Papenhuyzen made the Blues squad two years ago, before shattering his knee cap.
The Storm star could be seen as an option if he starts the seasons strongly. Other options include Eels fullback Clint Gutherson or Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell. Queensland have a plethora of in-form fullbacks duelling it out for the role with incumbent Reece Walsh proving to be made for the Origin arena.
Maguire will also have other huge decisions to make with the five-eighth position also a key role ready to be grabbed. Cody Walker played in Game III last year and led the Blues to a win, but his form curtailed towards the end of the 2023 season. Maguire will be charged with stopping Billy Slater leading Queensland to three straight State of Origin series wins.
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