Blues have 7 fullbacks, only one ‘Teddy’
Scott Woodward, BPN
Laurie Daley is likely to have seven players in his NSW Blues top 17 squad who played fullback in 2016, but there is only one James Tedesco.
No fullback in the game has a bigger influence on to the scoreboard than ‘Teddy’ and that is exactly the missing ingredient against the champion Queensland Maroons team.
The brilliant Tom Trbojevic is in the same ilk, but he is big enough and versatile enough to also be effective at centre or wing. ‘Dreamer’ Jarryd Hayne was stunning in 2014 at fullback and he can also play centre or wing.
Hayne is expected to return back to his best after a full pre-season under his belt, but his best is still not as good at Tedesco’s best, a nice problem for the coach.
Tedesco played 17 matches for Wests Tigers in 2016 and his game averages are off the park . He was the outstanding fullback with 6.2 tackle breaks in each game and also number one for line breaks (0.9) and tries scored (0.82). These are special numbers and to be fair, a fit Tom Trbojevic is expected to return these stunning figures for Manly in 2017.
Teddy also returned an outstanding 0.7 try assists each game which was only betted by Panthers Matt Moylan, which is why Laurie Daley likes him as a Blues pivot. Moylan’s figures at fullback compared to Tedesco’s are not in the same class and for him to claim the important 6 shirt, he would have to be in Daley’s top fifty per cent between incumbent James Maloney, Adam Reynolds and Mitchell Pearce.
Regardless of what combination Daley settles on, it will not have the organisational nous of Cronk and Thurston, but the Blues have slight edges in other areas. Providing their “General” can consistently execute the tactical short kicks well, this new look Blues team have points in them all over the park.
Other players in the expected top 17 that also can play fullback are Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan and maybe the versatile Jack Bird, but Daley is in trouble if they ever become options.
The greatest challenge that Laurie Daley and new co-selector Peter Sterling have is to settle on a 17 who can score 22 points regularly. The Blues have averaged fewer than two converted tries in the last three years; simply not good enough against a great Maroon team.
The Maroons have been able to post scores of 32, 52 and 26 over the last nine Origins against Daley-coached Blues teams and NSW have only passed the 18-point mark once when they scored 26 points in game 2, in 2015.
NSW have averaged scoring 11 points while the Maroons have averaged 18 points over the last three series.
Daley has won five of his 12 Origins as coach, not bad given the opposition has names like Smith, Thurston, Inglis and Cronk. Those guys know how to post a winning score and it is easy to think defence against them, which over more than a decade has been the Blues biggest mistake.
To defeat the Maroons on a regular basis and win multiple series, the Blues must field a team that can manufacture between 18 to 22 points. They should not be thinking: “let’s defend 12 points”.
Batsmen had the same mentality when they faced Shane Warne, but like the Maroons, he was too good and the bats who had the best record against him where the ones who took him on and attacked.
NSW must back their talent and relentlessly attack Queensland.
Daley has indicated that he knows the Blues have a problem with posting points and has shown his hand what he intends to do about it.
Selecting the silky Matt Moylan with the beautiful pass and deceptive speed in the halves is a big change. Also, the availability and injection of Jarryd Hayne and ‘Turbo’ Tom T into the backline will promote points.
The Blues never lack anything in the forwards at Origin time and again they will field another more than competitive pack minus former skipper Paul Gallen. This may create an opening for the classy Trent Merrin, who as well as being a superb defender can also promote second phase play.
The big advantage that the Maroons have enjoyed over the Blues for over a decade is the creativeness in the halves, and again with Cronk and Thurston, they will ensure they execute their last tackle options correctly ensuring the Maroons good field position.
The Blues must find a winning combination from the experienced Mitchell Pearce, Matt Moylan, James Maloney or the injury prone Adam Reynolds, who has the superior tactical kicking game.
Someone will be unlucky.