Daley puts faith in Origin experience
NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley doesn't expect to deviate too far from the script as he prepares for a rare chance to go through an Origin series with two home games while looking to reverse a horror loss in last year's decider.
At the launch of the 2016 Origin series, Daley gave his thoughts on his halves conundrum, the vexed fullback spot, the return of Greg Bird and how his side shrugs off a record loss in their last Origin start.
How important is incumbency and continuity?
"I think what we've tried to do over the last couple of years is build consistency in selections and I think that's worked for us. In the past when we've done a lot of chopping and changing it hasn't been great for us.
"We are about building and moulding a team. We missed a lot of experience last year, that has tended to be forgotten because we wanted to make some changes.
"We wanted to get some young guys into our team off the back of 'Birdy' [Greg Bird] being suspended and Jarryd [Hayne] leaving, I think we had 'Gal' [Paul Gallen] missing first game, Robbie [Farah] was out for game three then we didn't pick 'Lewy' and 'Choc' [Luke Lewis and Anthony Watmough] so there was about 90 Origin games missing from the previous year in Games I and III and that was what we wanted to do, we wanted to get some young guys into the team and try and keep that mould.
"We may do one or two more of those young guys this year but our squad's not old, our squad's in reasonable shape. The best way we can set up for the future is to build and mould a team."
Josh Dugan will be in the squad – will he be fullback?
"Dugan will be there. I am open-minded at the moment. He will be there, it will depend – everyone keeps asking about James Tedesco, it depends if James Tedesco is there but 'Duges' will be there somewhere but I'm not quite sure at the moment so we'll just see how it pans out."
Could Tedesco fill a role on the wing if Dugan is fullback?
"Probably not. Although we have played him on the wing the last couple of City-Country games so it is not to say that we couldn't swap guys around but again I think if he continues to play well he applies pressure on us to select him and if you select him you work out where you put 'Duges'. It will be one of those ones we monitor and see how we go."
If Tedesco is fullback does that leave Dugan on the wing? His one game there for Australia wasn't his best.
"I think it was quite easy to point out 'Duges' but the whole Australian team struggled that day. It wouldn't worry me to play him on the wing and it wouldn't worry me to play him centre.
"I know he's a big game player and I know he loves playing for NSW. He's payed [eight] games for NSW and got players' player in four or five of them, so he is a good player wherever you put him."
Will Hopoate won't play at all due to religious reasons for three weeks leading up to Origin I, will that hurt his chances?
"I don't think it will hurt his chances. It probably will next year when we take [Origin] to Sundays! So that will probably affect him but this year, no. And he is playing really well, Will, I'm happy for him, that is his decision and you have to support it.
"He's a pretty strong willed and determined boy. That's his faith and he believes in it and he has made that decision based on what he wants to do, not anyone else."
Everybody's talking about who will be in the halves...
"At the moment there are three guys we are looking at that are playing. All the others aren't playing. So you've got Trent Hodkinson, Josh Reynolds and James Maloney and then you've got guys like Adam Reynolds, Blake Austin, Aiden Sezer that are out injured at the moment and that's unfortunate for them but hopefully they can get back out on the field and Mitch [Pearce] is the other one that is missing for eight or nine weeks. We've got some halves that are missing through whatever reason so hopefully those guys can get back on the field and play some footy and give us more depth and make it a tough decision to choose who our halves will be."
James Roberts has hit form – is he in the frame?
"We brought James into camp last year; he started the season off a little bit quiet but he played really well last week so that's his standard now, James, you want to make sure his involvement is like that every week.
"If he's involved like that every week he becomes a valuable player to any team he's playing in so that's the challenge for James, is to be like that every week and I'm sure if he does that he'll be applying pressure."
Will you carry any scars from Game III last year?
"I don't think there are any sort of scars there. There is a lot of disappointment and embarrassment but I don't think there are any scars there. We know that wasn't the real NSW, that was just a one-off, we don't know where it came from but we can promise you it won't happen again.
"I thought in Game I last year coming off the back of a series win in 2014 we were arguably the best team in Game I. In Game II we were pretty dominant, Game III we were off and we were made to pay and when you play against a champion team that can happen. But we're excited, we know what we can do and what we're about."
You must be looking forward to getting Greg Bird back this year?
"Yeah he's playing well at the moment, Birdy. He's a guy that we missed his leadership last year and his experience and in Origin, against an experienced Queensland team experience is invaluable. So as long as Birdy's fit and playing well I'm sure he'll be looking forward to getting back out there. I think he missed it last year and I think he'll be excited about it."