Maguire’s team overhaul strengthens Blues but their lack of cohesion is a major concern by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 20 min read

Michael Maguire’s new-look Blues for Origin II certainly have more strikepower but they face a substantial task in a sub-optimal amount of time to strike up cohesion. 

Maguire has tried to strike the happy medium between the cliche of “wholesale changes” and the risk of sticking solid to the players who were on the field for the 38-10 drubbing in game one. 

One of his five changes was a no-brainer, reinstating Dylan Edwards at fullback after he was the preferred choice for the series opener, only to be ruled out with a thigh injury from a training mishap for James Tedesco to get one last crack at the No.1 jersey. 

Another of his selections was forced by the four-game suspension of Joseph Suaalii for his controversial hit on Reece Walsh which led to his send-off seven minutes into his Blues debut and despite other candidates also being viable options, it was apparent that Latrell Mitchell is in the right form and frame of mind to make an impact for the Blues. 

Cameron Murray would have been one of the first players picked last month if not for a hip injury so it’s no surprise really that he comes in at the expense of Cameron McInnes who was serviceable but not much more at Homebush. 

Change No.4 is the addition of Connor Watson as the bench utility which was brought about by McInnes missing the 17, meaning the versatile Rooster could fill the void of a back-up hooker behind Reece Robson but also be able to slot into the halves, fullback or centre if a reshuffle is needed due to an injury or HIA out wide. 

So you can make a case that Maguire’s raft of changes are not that dramatic but the fifth one is the big gamble – punting Nicho Hynes from halfback to make Mitchell Moses their chief playmaker. 

Even though they are similar players, it will still be a step backwards to change such an important position in the hope that Moses can take the team two steps forward. 

He has never played with Edwards and in the one Origin he started with Luai and  Robson also in the spine, the Blues were pumped 32-6 in game two last year to surrender the shield to the Maroons. 

Maguire’s readjusted spine has little more than a week to click or the shield will be remaining in Queensland for a third straight year. 

And all the while the Maroons will be returning to camp with the same spine and squad from game one, reigniting the same effortless chemistry that they have cultivated over the past couple of years since Billy Slater has been at the helm. 

Mitchell Moses. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

With Nathan Cleary hopeful of returning for Origin III as long as he has no more hiccups with his hamstring, the Blues could have three different starting halves for the first time since 2004 when Craig Gower, Trent Barrett and Brett Finch rotated through the No.7 jersey. 

Helping Moses slot in mid-series is the fact that he’s similar to Hynes in that they are both  a right-side dominant player so that will mean that Jarome Luai will remain on his preferred left edge. 

Luai was lucky to get another chance after his stuttering and often sideways attacking forays seemed to stagnate the Blues’ attack as they tried to keep pace for most of the match with the Maroons despite being a player down. 

He has been delivering at club level in more of an organising role lately for Penrith in Cleary’s absence but there’s a gigantic difference between chiming into the end of the Panthers’ momentum in club footy and trying to find a chink in the Queensland armour in there hand to hand combat known as Origin. 

Luai will have Mitchell and Angus Crichton to combine with down the left edge for NSW so the sooner he can give them early, clean ball the better it will be for the Blues, particularly with Brian To’o lurking on the flank to finish off any half chances. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: NSW Blues head coach Michael Maguire poses for a photograph during the 2024 State of Origin Series Launch at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 16, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
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NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Crichton is in a purple patch of form and his offloading ability got the Roosters out of a tight squeeze against the Eels at CommBank Stadium after they had fallen behind in the second half on Saturday night. 

Moses will have Stephen Crichton and Liam Martin to weave a path through the Maroons on the right side, plus Zac Lomax as a target for his high kicks. 

And with Edwards bobbing up on either side to put the Maroons’ defence in two minds, the Blues definitely have more points in them this time around. 

Maguire has made the moves he thinks are needed to take down the Maroons and in theory, where no Origin match has ever been won, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Tough decisions have been made but now the really hard work begins to get this new-look team in synch by 8pm next Wednesday at the MCG. 

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