Andrew 'Joey' Johns has disagreed with brother Matthew's suggestion that Tom Trbojevic should be picked on the wing for NSW, saying Brad Fittler should have the Manly superstar in the centres. Fittler will be boosted by the likely availabilities of Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell in 2023, after they both missed last year's series.
The popular train of thought is that Turbo and Latrell will both play in the centres due to James Tedesco's presence at fullback. But Trbojevic's position remains a hot topic.
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On Thursday, Joey said he disagreed with calls from the likes of Paul Gallen and brother Matthew for Turbo to play on the wing, saying he'd pick the Sea Eagles star in the centres. "The wingers in Origin are your front rowers, they get the sets rolling forward. Why would you get one of your great players just to be doing the donkey work?" he told Wide World of Sports on the 'Freddie and the Eighth' podcast.
"You want to save him up for the good ball, which you get in the centres. [In 2021] He played centre and got player of the series. Why would you move him to the wing?"
Earlier this week, Matty Johns said he'd have Trbojevic on the wing. "In my opinion, wingers these days have more involvement, are all almost more blue ribbon than a centre - a centre is a real grafter," Matty said.
“I’d have Tom for his kick reception, it’s much easier saying to a winger, ‘Hey listen, Tommy, go roam the field and do what you want’, easier for a winger to do that than a centre. My back three would be Tedesco at fullback, Tom Trbojevic, (Brian) To’o - that’s a lot of yardage and punch.
“Latrell goes without speaking - he’s one centre. The other centre, well take your pick, is it (Jack) Wighton, (Stephen) Crichton and (Matt) Burton, we’ve got a lot of depth in the outside backs.”
Andrew Johns wants Jarome Luai over Nicho Hynes
One area in which the Johns brothers do agree is that Jarome Luai should retain the No.6 jersey, rather than Nicho Hynes coming in. Fans are calling for Hynes to displace Luai as the Blues' five-eighth in this year's State of Origin series, after Queensland won 2-1 last year.
Hynes has been in sensational form over the last 18 months and won the Dally M medal in 2022, albeit while playing halfback. Luai has helped the Panthers win back-to-back NRL premierships, with his club combination with halfback Nathan Cleary and lock Isaah Yeo working in his favour.
According to Johns, NSW should stick solid with Luai because of the way he works with Cleary and Yeo. "Origin is about combinations," Johns said. "In this team you've got the holy trilogy of Luai, Cleary and Isaah Yeo playing around the ruck, playing together. Combinations are so important.
"Nicho will be in contention at 14 (on the bench), but without doubt you need combinations and the combinations around the middle of the field with Yeo, Cleary and Luai have been doing it for the last three, four, five years - especially the last three years in big, big games and winning big games."
Earlier this week, Matty Johns expressed similar sentiments. “If I was to pick the side this morning, I would pick Nicho at 14 and I would leave Luai at six," he said on SEN radio. "The combination he has with not just Cleary but Isaah Yeo, that three combination that sits right in the middle of the field is just such an advantage for NSW.
“Successful Origin sides, there has been an important combination that sits right at the front of the side. At one point you had Ricky Stuart, Laurie Daley and Bradley Clyde.
“At other points, you’ve had Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus and Ben Kennedy there. Combinations are very important to a representative side and that Penrith one is a beauty in the middle of the field for NSW.”
The theory appears sound at first glance, but the fact that NSW lost the series last year might force Blues coach Brad Fittler to consider some changes.
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