The 2023 State of Origin series may have already been decided, but there’s several players who have a point to prove in game three in Sydney.
Recalling the 33-year-old Walker suggests NSW are hellbent on preventing a whitewash rather than looking to the future. But the mercurial South Sydney playmaker has declared he sees this as an opportunity to lock down the sky blue No.6 jersey for 2024. Walker, who would have been a strong contender to be drafted in for game two if not injured, replaces Jarome Luai after last played for NSW three years ago. He was axed after the Blues lost his debut game, the 2019 series opener, while he featured in all three games of the 2020 series defeat – scoring a try in the game two win but otherwise underwhelming opposite Cam Munster. Walker’s played in a grand final since then: the 2021 decider, which featured a brilliant solo try and a premiership-deciding intercept pass and sums up his unabashed ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ attacking style. What can’t be disputed is Walker is on of the NRL’s most gifted halves, who has no doubt been tasked with unlocking a stagnant Blues offence this Wednesday. The veteran is the shortest-priced NSW player in the man of the match market at $9, while he’s $3.30 to mark his return to the fold with a try.
Damien Cook has given a ringing endorsement of the decision to recall his @SSFCRABBITOHS teammate Cody Walker. The @NSWBlues had their first training run in Coogee this morning, as they strive to avoid their first Origin series whitewash in 13 years https://t.co/2uqeiKcBIT #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/0GGsEYuKI2
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) July 5, 2023
Realistically, Brimson is the fourth-best fullback in Queensland. Reece Walsh was integral to the Maroons’ victories in the opening two games, unlucky omission Kalyn Ponga turned down the chance to return for game three, and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been such as success at centre Billy Slater opted not to move him. But the Gold Coast livewire has produced the goods at this level before, starring with a try on debut that kick-started no-name Queensland’s series-opening upset in 2020. He came off the bench twice in 2021. Brimson spent most of 2022 at five-eighth but has looked much more at home with the Titans’ No.1 on his back this year (despite a few injury interruptions), racking up eight try assists and six line-breaks in nine NRL appearances. He won’t die wondering and is on the sixth line of man of the match betting at $11, while he’s a juicy $3.40 to bag another Origin try.
Perhaps the most contentious selection for game three, Best debuts in the place of injured centre Tom Trbojevic – getting the nod ahead of the likes of Izack Tago, Will Penisini and Siosifa Talakai. Best received the call-up a day after scoring three tries and notching two try-assists in Newcastle’s 66-0 demolition of Canterbury, which drew some criticism. But the hulking 21-year-old has had a solid season in a middling team, racking up eight tries, 10 try assists, six line-breaks and 40 tackle-breaks. Best is expected to line up opposite Valentine Holmes – a two-try hero in game two – in a daunting defensive assignment first up. It’s a baptism by fire but Best can put his hand up for a 2024 guernsey if he’s prepared to get involved and chance his arm. A $126 man of the match longshot, Best is tempting as a $3.50 anytime tryscorer option.
— NRL (@NRL) July 2, 2023
While Lindsay Collins was a popular man of the match pick in game two, there was no player more influential than Cherry-Evans. The skipper had a line-break, a try assist and a memorable try-saving chase along with 112 metres and 24 tackles, and steering the Maroons around Suncorp Stadium brilliantly. In a quieter game one, DCE still had a try assist and produced a crucial 40/20. Superb in an up-and-down Manly side this year, the 34-year-old is playing as well as at any stage of his career and has developed into a genuine Origin great in captaining Queensland to three unlikely series triumphs in the past four years. The 22-game veteran was man of the match in the 2020 series opener and is $11 to collect another best on ground gong.
— Roast (@thenrlroast) November 18, 2020
Rated by many as the best No.13 in the game, Murray’s underuse in the opening two matches has attracted plenty of criticism after being named as an interchange. The South Sydney skipper cooled his heels on the NSW bench for the first 47 minutes of game two; he was busy with 13 runs for 102 metres and 19 tackles in just 33 minutes but the result was virtually sealed by the time he was injected. Murray has usurped Isaah Yeo in the starting line-up for the Sydney clash, however – his first Origin start at lock (he has five run-on appearances in the second-row in his 12 matches for the Blues). The 25-year-old’s energy and work-rate shapes as a good counter to a Maroons pack that has outenthused their Blues counterparts. While NSW’s overreliance on Penrith players has been panned, Murray’s familiarity with Walker, Damien Cook and debuting second-rower Keaon Koloamatagi should provide some advantages for a new-look squad. Murray is a value $21 option in the man of the match market.
Cameron Murray on what it means to play representative footy ❤️💚
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) June 6, 2023